Just 18 years into the 20th century and the world had been transformed. Gone was itâ€™s innocence and forever present was a new term. World War. In 1914 the world was plunged into a war that was soon tagged as the war to end all wars. Mankind had seen war before. But never like this. This war was not just confined to the land or marked by great sea battles by dictorial captains of old sailing man oâ€™wars. It took place not only in those places but also under the ocean and in the air.
Mankind got itâ€™s first taste of the use of weapons of mass destruction during combat. When Germany first used Chlorine Gas the world cried out. But quickly the world followed suit. It was a time of both man and machine. A time of new inventions. New ways for man to kill man. The airplane made itâ€™s first appearance as a scout. As the war dragged on it turned into a bomber and fighter. Sometimes one and the same, sometimes all three. This war also saw the first use of submarines in a new kind of warfare. Submarines had indeed been around for a while previous to the beginning of hostilities but their use was limited by the fact that the people often onboard the submarines were on a one way mission.
Technological advances of the time meant that this new threat in war was one that was credible and not to be ignored. In a prelude of things to come civilization learned that technology when used in a wartime situation yielded horrific events and casualties. The common soldier and sailor long knew of the horrors of war but the civilians the fought for and to protect new relatively little. That would change.
Casualties for World War I included:
Aproximately 5.17 million for the Allies, 8.6 million for the Central Powers worldwide (figure includes losses from the Ottoman empire) and 15.1 million civilian casualties. Other casualties were those of the â€œOld World Orderâ€. World War I marked the demise of the absolute monarchy in Europe with four monarchyâ€™s shattered and broken. Gone were the Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian , and Ottoman Empires.
Many lost their lives in this â€œGreat Warâ€. Many came home a shell of their former selves. Some with wounds so deep that they would never heal. Lost in the eternal fight for their own sanity. Grief for their fallen brothers, the friends they would not see again. Some buried in the very land they fought to free. Some to a grave in the deep oceans.
Have we remembered them? Are the lost on the RMS Lusitania remembered? What about those lost on the western front? Or those in the sands of the Ottoman empire? Every year about this time people have events of past wars brought back to the forefront again. What I find sad is that some have to have this reminder. Remembrance shouldnâ€™t be about what we do once a year. It should be about what we do everyday.
We can honour those fallen heroâ€™s by remember of their sacrifice. We can honour the courage of the innocence caught in the crossfire. Some fought for freedom. Some for King and Country. Others because they had been called to do so. No matter the reason. No matter the cause we should remember that the freedoms we have today we owe not to our politicians, news media or other such self serving group. We owe our freedoms to those brave souls that stood watch and visited harm on those who would have taken our freedoms and the freedomâ€™s of others away.
Do not underestimate the power of the words â€œThank Youâ€ to a vet. Do not just utter those words on November 11th. Say it then to be sure, but also say it through out the years. Whenever you get the chance. Donâ€™t say it expecting a response. If that is why you are saying thanks, then please donâ€™t. Instead take the time and effort to learn why you should.
By way of example let me share something with you. A few weeks ago I went to the store. Not an unusual trip for me to be sure. At least not at the start but things changed quickly as I pulled into the parking lot.
As I sat in my car, impatiently waiting for a driver to back her big SUV out I looked past the source of my irritation at an elderly couple getting out of their van. As one would expect it was parked in a handicapped spot. The couple didnâ€™t attract my attention at first. It was what was printed all over the van.
On the van were messages reminding us to thank vets for the freedomâ€™s we love. As I watched the driver, an elderly gentleman probably in his late 70â€™s early 80â€™s, struggle with his cane as he walked to the store I noticed a few kids riding their bikes between the cars. Seeing my spot vacated I quickly pulled in as I could see the kids were on their way to a â€œcollision courseâ€, of sorts, with this couple.
As I got out of my car the manâ€™s wife pulled on his shirt sleeve just as the kids went by. â€œWatch it old man!â€ one of them yelled. The old gentleman didnâ€™t miss a stride. He put his head down and moved off to the store. It doesnâ€™t take a rocket scientist to imagine what I would have done had I gotten a hold of that little ###### but I was more affected not by his words but by this old warriorâ€™s demeanor. There is not doubt in my mind that in his day he could have turned that kid every way but lose and Iâ€™m sure many here would have paid a good penny to see that show.
I caught up with the old couple at the door to the store.
â€œExcuse me sirâ€ I said with my hand extended.
â€œYou donâ€™t know me and are not likely to meet me again but I wanted to thank youâ€ â€œToo many of our kids today do no realize the treasure they have in the freedomâ€™s they have thanks to many like you.â€ â€œThanks to you sir, and many other great men like you, I had the opportunity to follow my dream as has my step son.â€
I shook his hand briefly, with him never saying a word. He didnâ€™t have to. He had already done enough. I stepped back and let them through the door ahead of me and we parted ways. Iâ€™ll never forget the look on his face. That look was one that no words can describe and until you have the chance to experience it yourself you never will understand what itâ€™s like. My question to us all is this.
Do we really realize the treasure we have in the freedom obtained for us by those that have gone before us? Do you?