“Eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month”
The often quoted phrase denotes the time recognized as the end of World War I. Based on President Woodrow Wilson’s “Fourteen Points,” the armistice to end that war specified it would take effect six hours after signing. German negotiators reluctantly signed the document at 5:00 AM on November 11, 1918.
Although combat raged on for another month between Turkey and Austria-Hungary, the armistice signed between Germany and the Allies marked cessation of most hostilities at 11:00 AM that day. Thus began the ending of the Great War, as it was then known.
Many of the Allied countries designated the anniversary of “Armistice Day” as day for annual reflection to remember the staggering human cost of those lost, and to honor those who served. After World War II and Korea added millions to the ranks of combat veterans, there was a popular push to honor their sacrifices as well
The November 11 holiday was expanded to recognize all veterans. The United States renamed its national holiday to “Veterans Day”, while “Remembrance Day” became the official title in the United Kingdom and Canada.
The Veterans Day holiday fell into some disfavor during the 1970s, due in part to continued backlash from the war in Vietnam. Congress moved the date to the fourth Monday in October as part of a uniform holiday legislation to have holidays become part of extended weekends. Due to public outrage, Veterans Day was reinstated to its rightful spot on the calendar in 1978.
During the 1990s, a movement growing in popularity was taking two minutes for quiet reflection each November 11th, starting at 11:00 AM. This moment of silence timed to coincide with those guns falling silent so many years before.
In 1999, singer-songwriter, Terry Kelly, was at a market as the store manager used the public address system to request shoppers and salespeople take that two minutes for silent remembrance.
One shopper, with small daughter on tow, insistently demanded service from the clerks during that period. The man’s insensitivity so enraged Kelly that he went home and penned this moving tribute.
Please, take two minutes out of your busy schedule at 11:00 AM this Veterans Day. Sacrifice those two minutes to remember, and honor, all those who have served. It is, after all, just a pittance of time.
This is a rewrite of a post I first published in 2008, and have offered in some form or venue each year since.
Dennis P. O’Neil