World War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918, so it only seems fitting to remember it on this Veterans Day, 11-11-11. 2011 also saw the passing of the last surviving WWI combat veteran, Australian Claude Choules at the age of 110. Frank Buckles, the last remaining American veteran of WWI also passed away, leaving the living memory of the Western Front quiet forever.
It was one of the bloodiest conflicts in world history, and it wiped out an entire generation of young men in Europe. It redrew a big chunk of the world map, and ended several empires. It left much old Europe in economic ruins, but saw the United States rise on the world stage. There were an estimated 6.8 million combat deaths in the war, a number that today is hard to comprehend. Modern 20th century weaponry and 19th century tactics collided, with catastrophic results. In one day of fighting at the Battle of the Somme, the British army lost 19,240 men with another 35,493 wounded…more than four times the number of men we’ve lost in a decade of fighting in the Middle East. In a single day.
The reasons for the war breaking out are hard to understand even today, buried in the politics of 19th century Europe. The war ended with the Armistice, and the Treaty of Versailles–which planted the seeds of WWII. We still remember the armistice that ended the war every November 11th–today we know it as Veterans Day.
We have a monument here in Hamilton dedicated to the men from the area that served in WWI. This unnamed Doughboy has been standing at attention since 1921, when the monument was put in front of the Ravalli County Courthouse by the Service Star League.
The Honor Roll plaque has the inscription
“That the memory of the boys who gave their lives and their services in defense of their country and to perpetuate its ideals, shall live as an inspiration to courage and patriotism.”
It goes on to list the local boys who served overseas…
Today he still stands as one of the few reminders we have of “The Great War”.
This Veterans Day, give thanks to all of our men and women who have served for our country, and remember the boys who served “over there”, and breathed a collective sigh of relieve as the guns fell silent at 11-11-11.