11/11: A date forever commemorated

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The towering word “Peace!” was proclaimed in headlines of hundreds of newspapers across the country 100 years ago today, Nov. 11, 1918.

After more than four years, World War I had ended at last.

Surely, weary soldiers on both sides were relieved to return home to their parents, their wives, their children, their brothers and sisters. Who could have ever imagined then that another world war would break out Sept. 1, 1939, when Adolf Hitler invaded Poland.

The signing of the Treaty of Versailles a century ago was celebrated around the world after Germany surrendered, signing the armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, ending what became known as the Great War. From that day forward the date would be forever commemorated, becoming a national holiday — Armistice Day, in 1938, and then Veterans Day in 1954, to honor all veterans both living and dead.

May we be reminded as we celebrate Veterans Day this year that throughout our country’s history, our veterans who have served in both times of peace and war have made great sacrifices — some the ultimate sacrifice. Millions have left their homes and families, and many have seen their fellow soldiers suffer and have grieved for those who died beside them on the battlefield. Many have returned home with injuries, both physical and emotional, that could not be healed.

Veterans Day is a time to open our hearts to honor and express our gratitude for those who have fought for our freedom.

Although there are no longer any living veterans of World War I, here in Montana there are more than 98,000 living veterans — one of the highest per capita veteran populations in the United States, according to the Veterans Health Administration — and many who have served in multiple conflicts. They need and deserve our gratitude and respect.

And although over the last 100 years the U.S. has entered many more wars and conflicts since World War I, and peace has been all too illusive, if ever there was a day fitting to pray for it, here on our own soil and around the world, then may it be today, Veterans Day.

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