Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Armistice blog.

No more entries till Friday at the earliest, though Saturday is more likely, considering my schedule over the next few days.

In my mother’s home, there's a framed panoramic photo of my grandfather's army company, or maybe it's several companies because there are row upon row of men, all in the Army Corps of Engineers. (It was no accident: he was a graduate of Texas A&M, class of 1916.) The panorama is dated 1918 and I believe it was taken near Louisville, where they trained. I don't know exactly when grandpa shipped out that year, or where he was at the Armistice, but my mother always said that he spend 1919 doing engineer's work in parts of France shattered by the war. Dangerous work at times, I'm sure, because of unexploded ordnance.

But he survived to be a civil engineer building roads in Texas for many years, and now has 13 living descendants, aged 9 months to 78 years.

Uncle Ralph was in the Great War, too. My great uncle, actually, my mother's mother's brother. I have a picture of him, his father, his uncle and a family friend after they'd sold some cattle in Ft. Worth in 1909, all dandied up for the portrait. What I heard about him in the war was that he served in a tank company, and was all ready to go to the front at the time of the Armistice. So he too survived, and lived long enough so that I can remember visiting him in a nursing home. He never married, however, and has no known descendents.

I was pretty young when I learned that Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day, and it has always struck me that it would be better to call it that, even now. Somehow, and I'm not sure how someone (me) born in the early 1960s picked up an idea like this, but it seems that "Armistice Day" has more gravitas. It contains the idea of honoring veterans every bit as much as Veteran’s Day, but there's more to it. An armistice is when war stops, after all, so the notion of the peace after the fighting is rolled into it. Not only that, Armistice Day is moored to a specific point in history, when the worst war the world had ever known finally ended. That's worth remembering, especially now, after 85 years, the Great War is virtually gone from living memory.


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