Armistice Day and Beyond

Ninety-six years ago, soldiers were slaughtering each other at a rate of 1600 a day — a day! Following a British mass assault which killed 20,000, a German machine-gunner said he didn’t even have to aim.

In 1918 when the Treaty of Versailles went into effect — at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month — the big guns fell silent. And in that sudden silence, men in the trenches said they could hear the voice of God.

But apparently, no one with influence was listening.

The War to End All Wars destroyed four European empires and sowed seeds for the Russian Revolution, the German Nazi Party, World War II and the Cold War — which lasted until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In addition, a secret deal between Great Britain and France reneged on post-war promises, creating Arab resentments still in evidence today.

On Armistice Day 2014, I was privileged to present “Armistice Day and Beyond” to residents of Bermuda Village, a retirement center at Advance NC. The lobby teemed with (much younger) service photographs of residents aged 60 to 90. Post-performance feedback ranged from “What’s this guy’s point?” to “Best I ever heard.” … I must have landed somewhere in between.

But everything I had to say boiled down to these final lines:

Our national heritage cannot be found in history books. It is found in the stories of our citizens, in personal stories of personal experiences told in our own words.

Tell your stories.

Tell your children and your children’s children. Tell your nieces and nephews and their children. Tell your neighbor. Tell the people at your church. Tell anyone who stands or sits still long enough to hear. And pester those who don’t.

Tell your stories. Because contained in them is the true history of our country, the nobility of our ideals, the marrow of our existence.

And the real reason we rally to our flag and put on its uniform and serve its cause.

Tell your stories.

And thank you for listening to mine.

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