November 11: 1919 and 2019
One hundred and one years ago, on November 11, 1918, the guns of World War I fell silent.
One hundred years ago, November 11, 1919, was a day for remembering.
President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation commemorating November 11 as Armistice Day. He wrote: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.”
Across the country, parades and public meetings were convened, and business was suspended for two minutes at 11am, the time the armistice had gone into effect the previous year.
In Richmond, churches held services of thanksgiving in the morning. That afternoon, Corporal Joseph Allen, a Virginia soldier who had earned the Distinguished Service Medal and the French Croix de Guerre, presented a memorial flag to Governor Westmoreland Davis in the hall of the House of Delegates. A representative of the French ambassador also presented his country’s flag to Governor Davis as a symbol of the alliance between our nations. A parade of war workers was postponed, however, due to rain.
In Roanoke, a crowd of 20,000 to 30,000 came out despite the rain to celebrate the armistice, according to the World News. Veterans of the World War marched by, as did representatives of the Red Cross, YMCA, Salvation Army, and Boy Scouts. Automobiles carried veterans of the Civil War.
Following the parade, a program featuring an address by Colonel Robert E. Lee, Jr., a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates and grandson of the Confederate general, songs, flag presentations, and 30 seconds of silence took place.
The World News also reported that the day passed quietly in Bristol, with banks closed all day and other businesses shuttered between 11am and noon. A service was held at the YMCA, and students were dismissed from school after a morning memorial.
Martinsville’s Armistice Day experience was similar, and some people reportedly traveled to Roanoke and Richmond to celebrate the day.
At Big Stone Gap High School, students gathered in the chapel at 11am to commemorate the armistice. The Big Stone Gap Post reported on the service, “The program which the State YMCA issued was carried out very successfully. Rev. C. W. Dean gave a splendid talk.”
The Clinch Valley News noted the occasion, “a day and an event we could not forget if we would, and would not if we could.” It also reported the word out of Pounding Mill: “Today passed by quietly, many praising God for the peace anniversary.”
Although we know November 11 now as Veterans Day, we should approach it in the same spirit as that first Armistice Day 100 years ago – as a day for gratitude to all who served our country in uniform.
The last American veteran of World War I died in 2011, and the ranks of World War II veterans are thinning rapidly. It was my honor to be with some of them this year in Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-Day and to pay tribute to them at the site of their great deeds.
But one does not have to go to Europe to honor our veterans, from those remaining who served in World War II to the men and women who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Many communities have their services to mark the day, often gathered around a town’s monument to veterans. I have been able to participate in numerous such tributes throughout the Ninth District during my time in office. Attending one of them is a simply but meaningful way to show our gratitude for those who served.
On that first Armistice Day in 1919, Americans set aside time to honor our country’s warriors, whether enthusiastically taking in a parade as in Roanoke, attending a service as in Bristol, or praising God quietly as in Pounding Mill. On Veterans Day 2019, let us do the same.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also, on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.