One hundred years ago at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, it was finally over, over there.
The Great War – World War I: it lasted four years and cost the lives of an estimated 8.5 million soldiers. When the guns finally fell silent on Nov. 11, 1918, they called it Armistice Day. In 1954, it was renamed in the United States as Veterans Day.
Although celebrating our veterans is an annual event, make it extra special this year with a visit to the National WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City. The entire week of Nov. 2-11 the museum will host a multi-national commemoration of the Armistice of 1918 featuring musical performances, readings of poems and letters from soldiers, the dedication of the new Walk of Honor bricks and much more. Admission during the weekend of Nov. 9-11 is discounted.
In St. Louis, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum reopens Nov. 3-12 after an extended renovation. The home of the museum was originally a memorial building to commemorate the service and sacrifice of Missouri WWI soldiers, and it includes a large black memorial with the names of the fallen from the Great War and a mosaic gold star in honor of the Gold Star Mothers whose sons died overseas.
The commander of the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front in WWI was Missouri-born-and-bred John J. Pershing – the only American to be promoted in his own lifetime to General of the Armies, the highest possible rank in the United States Army. This particular Veterans Day would be the perfect time to visit the John J. Pershing Boyhood Home and State Historic Site in Laclede and learn about the man who went on to mentor the Army's top World War II generals.
Tucking a red remembrance poppy into your lapel this year may have more meaning to you after a visit to the Webster County WWI Memorial in Marshfield, which commemorates the service of WWI soldiers with the poem "In Flanders Fields." The remembrance poppy was inspired by this poem, which refers to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow over the graves in Flanders, Belgium.
Many places in Missouri offer a museum, memorial or statue to recognize the Show-Me State's veterans. But if this year you are moved to search for ones specifically honoring World War I, here's a good place to start.
Every day is a good day to thank a veteran – but Nov. 11 is dedicated exclusively to them. And one of the best ways to honor their service is to visit some of Missouri's military museums and memorials and learn more about all veterans have done throughout our country's history – in peacetime, in the "war to end all wars" that ended 100 years ago, and in all the ones that came after.
Written by Barbara Brueggeman