Celebrating Armistice Day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 6, 2004

We knew it as Armistice Day, a federal holiday set aside to honor veterans of World War I, who saved the world for democracy.

It was set by Congress in memory of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month on which the war ended in 1918.

It was observed yearly on the actual calendar day for this was many years before the practice of setting holidays on the Monday nearest in order to extend the weekend.

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And whatever the day, it always rained – or so it seems from the perspective of many decades.

Earliest memories recall the Armistice Day that the World War I monument was unveiled on a grassy mound a short distance from the entrance to New Live Oak Cemetery.

Mother, Sissy, Pat and I sat in our car and watched as Daddy and a group of American Legionnaires stood ankle deep in mud and struggled to lift the heavy, water-filled canvas from atop the marble figures.

The rain came down in sheets of gray from the lowering skies, thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and the flags flew bravely amid the storm as the drenched veterans saluted – and recalled the blood and the mud in the trenches of Normandy.

By our junior high school years, Uniontown’s Turkey Carnival was in full sway and the Black Belt wide celebration was held on Armistice Day. A Turkey Queen was crowned, her court of pretty girls in pretty dresses were honored with her, bands played, turkeys gobbled and flags flew above the heads of WWI veterans in uniform, who headed the parade.

That colorful event as well as the world as we knew it ended with the advent of World War II.

Those of us who remember mourn its passing as we regret the demise of the many small rural towns that were so colorful a part of our childhoods.

When World War II was over Armistice Day became Veterans Day, again by act of Congress, who changed the name on June 1, 1954. The date was unchanged but the observance took on a new aspect. Parades, flags and big brass bands were fewer, replaced by downtown and shopping mall sales, although prayerful ceremonies still take place at the sites of monuments to America’s veterans. These are led by members of patriotic organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans and the Legionnaires, who remember their fallen comrades and salute the sacrifice each made for this country.

Other conflicts since WWI have added to their number: Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq – the world has not yet learned to beat its swords into ploughshares. Television has brought battlefields into our living rooms. We the people have become cynical, doubting that all wars shall ever cease. No longer does the nation celebrate each new armistice with ticker tape parades, bells ringing and horns blowing and people kneeling in thanks to God that the boys are coming home.

The time between each new war has grown all too short.

In this year of our Lord 2005 on the anniversary of the day that a bloody war ceased, let us pause to remember all those who have given their lives to keep the flag of freedom flying above this nation and in our heart., and let us not forget those who are on active military duty


And God bless America!