One hundred and five years ago, the world wept with joy and relief. After four years, three months and two weeks of the most brutal killing and unimaginable death, the Great War was finally over.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month — 11 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918 — the war that claimed 40 million casualties came to a merciful end. And, ironically, the final shot of the war came from the 11th Field Artillery.
Described at the time as “the war to end all wars” due to its unparalleled scale, devastation and loss of life, it was surpassed 20 years later when the world started numbering its global conflicts.
“This is the end of it,” U.S. Army Field Artillery Captain Robert Casey wrote on the morning of Nov. 11, 1918. “In three hours the war will be over. It seems incredible even as I write it.
“I suppose I ought to be thrilled and cheering. Instead I am merely apathetic and incredulous. There is some cheering across the river — occasional bursts of it as the news is carried to the advanced lines,” he wrote. “For the most part, though, we are in silence. With all is a feeling that it can’t be true. For months we have slept under the guns. We cannot comprehend the stillness.”
After 1918, Nov. 11 was a day of remembrance with both celebration and somberness. By the 1920s, President Woodrow Wilson commemorated it as a day “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”
In 1938, Armistice Day, “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace,” was designated an official holiday. By 1945, the first unofficial Veterans Day celebrating all veterans rather than just the ones who died in World War I was held in Alabama. Then in 1954, Congress struck the word “Armistice” and replaced it with “Veterans,” making Veterans Day a federal holiday to honor American veterans of all wars.
Saturday we observe Veterans Day, while the federal government observes the holiday today. (If the holiday falls on Sunday, the federal holiday is on Monday.)
Sallisaw’s Veterans Day ceremony, coordinated by American Legion Post 27 and Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Sequoyah County Fairgrounds.
Not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service, Veterans Day honors all military veterans, including those still with us.