Armistice Day Observance
Iowa City Pentacrest — Saturday, Nov. 11 at 10:45 a.m.
Armistice Day 2010 — photo courtesy of Veterans for Peace (Chapter #161)
Peace advocates in Iowa City will honor veterans and oppose the perils of war by commemorating Armistice Day this Saturday.
As Iowans commemorate Veterans Day, many are unaware of the holiday’s earlier incarnation as Armistice Day. The First World War, the so-called “war to end all wars,” erupted 103 years ago. On Nov. 11, 1918, an Armistice was called between the Allied nations and Germany. This ceasefire was later made permanent with the signing of Treaty of Versailles the following year.
In the bloody aftermath, millions were dead and millions more injured and traumatized. This war claimed the lives of over 3,500 Iowans. Many vowed that such a war must never be allowed to be repeated, a promise that was not kept.
Armistice Day was established in November 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson (who enlisted the United States into the war after campaigning on a platform to “keep America out of the war”), to honor those who served in battle during WWI and celebrate the Armistice.
As noted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: “The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.”
Since then, Armistice Day has been observed to mourn the dead of The Great War and as a way to rededicate the world’s citizens to the cause of preventing future devastation wrought by war and militarism. For the next three decades, the occasion was widely observed In Iowa and the rest of the country. The date was declared a national holiday on May 13, 1938.
This was changed when the legal act was amended by Congress in 1954 by removing the word “Armistice” and replacing it with “Veterans,” hence the more familiar Veterans Day. The stated purpose for this change was to honor all American veterans and not just the ones who served in WWI. Over the years, the Armistice was largely forgotten by the American public, and many of its lessons ignored.
To help raise awareness for these forgotten lessons, the public is invited to join anti-war and pro-peace groups, such as Veterans for Peace (VFP) and the Peace Education and Action Center of Eastern Iowa (PEACE Iowa), for a public Armistice Day observance. Representatives of the groups and allies will gather at the Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue intersection on the University of Iowa Pentacrest from 10:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.
The ceremony will commence with a bugle call, and shortly afterward the bell at the Old Capitol will ring 11 times. The ringing of the bell is to signify the bells that rung 99 years ago when the fighting stopped. After the observance, a free lunch and an open mic session will be hosted in the social hall of the nearby Congregational church. This will allow participants to socialize and engage with each other.
Since 2010, VFP and its allies for peace have been hosting Armistice Day commemorations to help raise the public’s awareness to the nation’s “state of unending war,” to quote VFP Chapter #161 (Iowa City) co-founder and current Secretary Ed Flaherty.
VFP is an international organization with 140 worldwide chapters. They are described as “a global organization of Military Veterans and allies whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices.”
There are VFP chapters across the state, including one in Iowa City. They provide services to veterans and others in efforts to create peace by informing the public “of the true causes of war and the enormous costs of wars, with an obligation to heal the wounds of wars.”
PEACE Iowa describes itself as “a grassroots organization that promotes international peace through education, intercultural communication, public witness, citizen involvement and personal choices.” Its members have participated in and co-sponsored Armistice Day observances with VFP in previous years.
As noted in a public statement issued by PEACE Iowa: “Armistice Day is a day to promote PEACE and to remember the victims of war, veterans and civilians.”
Flaherty told Little Village, “We think the best way to honor veterans, living or dead, is to ensure no people go into a war that is unjustified.”