WALLA WALLA — The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month saw well over 1,100 people scattered mostly along the sidewalks of Main Street between Second Avenue and Spokane Street.
Like New Year’s, July 4 and Christmas, Veterans Day falls on the same date every year, as it has since its origin in 1918.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the history of the holiday goes back to when an armistice was called for to temporarily end the fighting in World War I; the cease fire was to begin Nov. 11, 1918.
The war officially ended with the Treaty of Versailles signed June 18, 1919.
The next November, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first Armistice Day and 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, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”
In 1938, 20 years after its origin, Nov. 11 was made an official national holiday to honor Veterans of World War I.
A decade after the end of World War II, the holiday was changed to include all veterans of the United States, in 1954.
Other countries, mostly Commonwealth nations, commemorate the day, often referring to it as Remembrance or Poppy Day.
The association with poppies came from a famous poem written in 1915 by Canadian Army physician, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae:
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
There are no more World War I veterans alive.
Florence Beatrice Green was the last surviving veteran of The Great War. She served in the Women’s Royal Air Force and died Feb. 4, 2012.
Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving American veteran of the war, died on Feb. 27, 2011.
On Sunday, it was obvious that there are still plenty of veterans from World War II, but it was also obvious their numbers are fading as well.