WHEREAS the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

WHEREAS it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations…

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

Dwight Eisenhower created Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all of America’s veterans. My grandfather won a Purple Heart in the Army Air Corps in World War II; I owe a great debt to him and to the rest of the armed forces, past and present. It’s entirely right that there be a day dedicated to rememberance and thanks. There’s an intentional vagueness to Veterans Day, however; it’s intended to honor all military veterans, every soldier and sailor from World War II through today. November 11 was originally a celebration of Armistice Day, and the legislators who drafted 44 Stat. 1982 in 1926 could be specific:

WHEREAS the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

WHEREAS it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations…

Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

The Great War broke out in August, 1914, and hardly a person in Europe quite understood what it was going to mean. Rupert Brooke, the young poet whom Yeats had called the "most handsome man in England," awaited it eagerly. In 1915, he wrote a sonnet, an encomium for war’s purifying fire:

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.

The Russian army’s collapse at Tannenberg and the French check to the German advance at Marne (the battle in which Gallieni used Paris’ taxis to rush soldiers to the front) ended hopes for a quick and glorious resolution to the war. Rupert Brooke was in the British Navy; he died of blood poisoning during the war, having seen almost no action. The future belonged to the men in the bloody mud and the words they were going to give the world.

It wasn’t just the writers who brought the words, although the two best of them, Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg, fought and died in the trenches, Owen perishing a week before Armistice Day. Rupert Brooks was an Edwardian, the last poet of a golden age; Wilfred Owen’s "Dulce Et Decorum Est" and Rosenberg’s "Break of Day in the Trenches" were poems for a modern war. Charles Sorley, killed in the Battle of Loos in 1915, said that war poetry "teems with sharp saws and rich sentiment: it is a marvel of delicate technique: it pleases, it flatters, it charms, it soothes: it is a living lie." The English poets, the Belgian charcutiers, the German bakers (the German army’s kitchen wagons were a remarkable innovation), the Russian chandlers gave history words. Trench foot, shell shock, bombardment, barrage, no man’s land. They were witnesses to and victims of the death spasms of the nineteenth century. The European losses were staggering: two hundred fifty thousand Turkish soldiers dead; three hundred thousand Romanian soldiers dead; six hundred fifty thousand British soldiers dead; six hundred eighty-nine thousand Italian soldiers dead; nine hundred thousand Austrial soldiers dead; one million three hundred thousand French soldiers dead; one million six hundred thousand German soldiers dead; one million seven hundred thousand Russian soldiers dead.

On the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the war ended. They’re still finding the bones today.