This week, 96 years ago, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the conflict known as WWI ended when the Armistice went into effect – an event we now celebrate as “Veterans Day”.
I probably would not be writing this today if it weren’t for that Armistice.
My Grandfather was a soldier in France, a corporal, in the fall of 1918. Although he’d been in the military for some time (at first ill for several months with what may have been the infamous “Spanish Flu”, then in an artillery unit), his first taste of face to face combat with the enemy was set for a couple of days after that symbolic day that ended the war. He and a team of soldiers were to attack a German fortification (which he termed a “castle”) with the goal of diverting attention from the main attack elsewhere. In military terms, “divert” means “get shot at,” which is why he and his fellows called these teams “Suicide Squads.” The survival rate was typically under 5% – if they were doing their jobs right (and my grandfather never did anything “halfway” in his entire life).
He and his fellow soldiers in that squad survived only because the diplomats agreed to end the war at that symbolic time, and did not drag out negotiations for a couple of more days. If they’d delayed for only a day or two, I might never have existed.