Friends, it is appropriate that I am writing this at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, Veterans Day, a day that I remember very well from my childhood, when we knew it as Armistice Day, the day the big guns fell silent on the “Western Front” to signal the end of what we then called The Great War. Twenty-five years later, it would be called the First World War, a conflict that, up to that time, resulted in the greatest carnage in human history. The Allies (“Entente”) suffered 5.8 million military deaths, 12 million wounded, and over 3 million civilian deaths due to famine, disease, and military action “collateral damage.” The Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire) suffered 4 million military deaths and 8.4 million wounded, with over 3 million civilian dead. Nearly 14 percent of the entire population of the Ottoman Empire perished in this war, including over a million killed during the Armenian Genocide. It would be impossible today to imagine losses like these had they not been surpassed by the ultimate carnage of the Second World War.
I recall Mom and Dad taking my brother and me “downtown” in New Rochelle, New York, for the traditional Armistice Day Parade, when contingents of soldiers and sailors marched down Main Street to North Avenue, accompanied by veterans in American Legion caps and high school bands. Veterans of “The War” walked among crowds on the sidewalks, selling small red poppies for a quarter (two-and-a-half weeks’ worth of my allowance) to go in Dad’s lapel, recalling the red poppies of “Flanders fields” and the bloody battles of Ypres, Passchendaele, and the Somme.