Until the storied “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month” in 1918, the battle lines in France shook with the roar of cannons.
But at that hour the guns ceased firing. A general armistice between the Allies and Germany went into effect. Terms of the peace had not been determined fully, but the fighting ended.
World War I was over!
That was to be the “war to end all wars” – and in the words of President Woodrow Wilson, “the war to make the world safe for democracy.”
Wilson, in 1919, proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day to remind Americans of the tragedies of war. A law Adapted in 1938 made it a federal holiday.
But World War I didn’t bring the hoped-for lasting peace across the globe. Since then there have been dozens of wars, small and large.
After massive American involvement in World War II and the Korean Conflict, Congress in 1954 changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day, dedicated to world peace and to honoring all men and women who have served in the armed forces.
That would include countless war veterans – living or deceased – extending from the present back to colonial times and the Revolutionary War.
Interred in the Provo City Cemetery alone are nearly 1300 veterans of eight wars – the War with Mexico, Indian wars, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean And Vietnam Wars.
Conceivably some veterans of the War of 1812 could have come west and died in Utah Valley, but no such burials have come to this writer’s attention.
Chief Photographer Meb Anderson spent hours in the American Fork and Provo Cemeteries locating and taking pictures of gravestone markers of veterans from the eight wars listed above. By spotlighting a few, our intent is to honor “all veterans.”
When you view the inscriptions as Meb did, you experience a deep feeling of history and of reverence for all those who have fought and sacrificed for freedom and peace through the years – a combined contribution we should never fail to appreciate.
The granite replica of the – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near the south-east corner of the cemetery has a special Veterans Day significance.
At its dedication by then Mayor Verl G. Dixon on Memorial Day 1972, a receptacle containing documents, histories and other memorabilia, was sealed inside the monument. The box is to be opened and its contents made public at ceremonies envisioned for Veterans Day Nov. 11, 2018, the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice.
The monument was erected by Provo City, the Veterans Memorial Board, and the Provo Veterans Council comprising the American Legion, Veterans of foreign Wars, Veterans of World War I, Disabled American Veterans, and the Spanish-American War Veterans.
The four men the Herald invited to pose at this marker for a Veterans Day picture represent four different wars:
Ivan A. Farnworth was in Brest, France when World War I ended. “Whistles blew when the armistice was announced,” he recalls. “Soldiers shouted and threw their hats into the air!”
Dallis A. Christensen served in the European campaign of World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge and with the 17th Airborne Division in establishing a beachhead on the Rhine.
J. Bruce Clark was with U. S. forces in the Korean War for two years. He was in the historic Inchon invasion engineered by General Douglas MacArthur, a turning point in the war.
George Morse is a much-decorated veteran of the Vietnam War in which he was wounded four different times. His military record earned him a period of service with the elite Green Berets.
Tombstones vary from the simple to the elaborate. An especially striking one at Provo marks the grave of John M. Drake, a Union soldier of the Civil War who died at age 42 Aug. 3, 1890. Drake enlisted in the Illinois Volunteer Infantry as a teenager.
The imposing marker, capped by a life-sized “goddess of liberty” figure, is located near the Center and Main intersection at the Provo City Cemetery.
The Veterans Day commemoration across the nation will include the annual patriotic services at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Arlington National Cemetery, Va. parades, speech , and military salutes traditionally are held in many communities.
Aside from public activities, you can bring the spirit of Veterans Day into your home in many ways, including:
– Displaying the American Flag.
– Talking about freedom and peace in a “family hour.”
– Reading historical accounts and remembering personal experiences associated with the wars. The American Legion Magazine preserved this incident illustrating the joy and exaltation of peace after a devastating war:
“I remember well the day World War II ended,” related a woman who served in the WAVES. “I was in the band with my trusty clarinet… We were practicing that day when the announcement came over the intercom: ‘The war is over. The Japanese have surrendered. The war is over!'”
The woman continued: “The band director ordered us to stand and play ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever.’ Forty of us stood there, tears streaming down our faces, and played that march, I’ll never forget it!”
Veterans Day can help keep alive inspirational stories of courage, heroism and sacrifice as well as the record of America’s efforts to preserve peace in the world.
The deeds of some are inscribed on monuments – and that is good. But as Pericles once noted, the “unwritten memorials graven not in stone but in the hearts of men” also are important.