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Wars and Remembrance

On Monday, Nov. 11, we observed Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor and remember those that served.

Go back 95 years.

The armistice treaty between the Allies and Germany was signed in a railway carriage in Compiege Forest, France, on Nov. 11, 1918, marking the end of the first world war, “the war to end all wars” as it was called then.

The signing took place in the 11th month on the 11th day at the 11th hour.

But wars did not end.

Less than 21 years later, on Sept. 1, 1939 Hitler’s army crossed the Polish border, a prelude to what became World War II, which became known as “the good war.”

The veterans from “the war to end all wars” are mostly all gone now, and time that stops for no one is thinning the ranks of remaining few from “the good war.” But there has been no shortage of men and women who served, since there also has been, sadly, no shortage of new wars — Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq…

I have always been an avid reader and military genre novels are always on top of my list. There is a scene in one of the books where a group of old timers, all veterans in a gritty working man’s town, meet every Nov. 11 at the local tavern. They reminisce, commiserate, eye the empty chairs, of which there are more every year at the round table, and at the end of the evening raise their glasses and a toast is made “to absent companions.”

On Monday, traveling down memory lane to when I also served, I too raised my glass.