D. GARY DAVIS
Veterans Day 2014- World War I Centennial
Veterans Day is an official United States Holiday that honors people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, also known as veterans. It is a federal holiday observed on November 11. It coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. I’m sure most of you will recall that the armistice was signed on November, 11, 1918 at 11:00 AM. Hence, it is our choice to hold our Veterans Day celebration each year at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. What you may not realize is that this past August marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. As in the Second World War, the United States did not enter the war when it first started. World War I period of war for U.S. Veterans is officially April 6, 1917 through November 11, 1918.
By War’s end, there were very few people in the countries that took part who remained unaffected. The war reached out and touched almost everyone’s life in some way or another. Children grew up in the shadow of battle, their fathers absent or lost. Women became directly involved, picking up the pieces of industry and agriculture as the men went off to fight. By 1918, they too could join the army and serve their country. Men enlisted and were called up, in their millions, being sent to fight in places they had never heard of before. It was a global struggle. Life changed forever. Nothing was ever the same again.
In the opening moves of the war, both in the West and in the East, the nature of modern warfare soon became clear. Armies were numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Modern weapons rapidly caused heavy casualties and laid waste to whole communities. Soldiers went to ground, digging trenches and dugouts that soon began to feel almost permanent. The crucible of war also proved very creative. Aircraft developed quickly, taking death and destruction into the sky. New ways of fighting made better and more effective use of huge quantities of shells and bullets manufactured on a scale never seen before.
The power unleashed by then modern war resulted in previously unimagined losses. Over 9 million soldiers died as a result of the fighting. Nineteen were from Bradley County. Food shortages, sometimes deliberately inflicted by blockade and sometimes resulting from failed harvests, weakened the people who remained on the home fronts. Nearly 6 million civilians died from disease or starvation. Almost 1 million more were killed as a direct result of military operations. In all, the estimate of dead from the war stands at over 16 million. And then there were the wounded. More than 21 million. Some recovered. Others were never the same again, either in body or in mind.
"The Great War” and "the war to end war”, sometimes called "the war to end all wars” were terms used for the First World War”. This obviously has not proven true. These names, originally idealistic, are now used mainly in a disparaging way. Fortunately in recent years, there has not been a war fought on American soil. Since World War I, the nature of wars has dramatically changed in the way our enemies fight and the ways we have countered. While our weaponry, strategies and tactics have changed, a veteran is still a veteran. As in World War I. the brunt of battle is still born by individual service members of our Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Freedom is not free! I am extremely thankful for our over 7,000 veterans in Cleveland/Bradley County, the over 506 thousand in the State of Tennessee and the 21.8 million in the United States that have served our country to maintain our precious freedom. I am also thankful for our potential future veteran that will be called upon to serve our great country and continue to maintain our way of life. I take pride in the youth of our community that have seen fit to serve and participate as Sea Cadets, Junior ROTC and Civil Air Patrol.
If you would like to memorialize or honor a veteran, you can purchase a flag with plaque with veteran’s personal information at our Veterans Service Office. This office is located on the main level of our Bradley County Courthouse. The number in the "Courthouse Show of Flags” continues to groW.
I will close with an anonymous poem entitle "Soldier” that I consider very fitting for veterans, especially those that experienced combat:
I was that which others did not want to be. I went where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do. I asked nothing from those that gave nothing, and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness …. Should I fail. I have seen the face of terror; felt the stinging cold of fear;and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moment’s love. I have cried, pained, and hoped …. But most of all, I have lived times others would say were best forgotten. At lease someday I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was …. a soldier.
We would not have the blessings and freedoms without veterans. The courage, sacrifice and dedication of those who have worn the uniform deserve our profound thanks and respect.