I had to explain Veterans Day to my students. Not the part about honoring veterans. There are a large number of military families in our neighborhood, and our former principal was a Marine, so we’ve had annual assemblies at the school. They know what a veteran is, what they didn’t get was why was it in the middle of the week, and why did it move around? So I explained to them, and told them about my father-in-law to show the story. Explaining history is always better with a story and even better with a personal story.
I explained how Veterans Day is timed for the armistice, or end of war, at World War I. The countries agreed to stop hostilities at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month. I shared that my father-in-law lied about his age to join the Army during World War I. He was only 16. My students were puzzled, how could you lie about your age? That was an interesting side discussion. He was in a trench in early November and sometime around the 9th or 10th, was told that his unit was going to do a frontal assault on a German position. What this meant was a group of soldiers running at a machine gun battery. I asked the students what they thought would happen? The consensus, many would die. The armistice very likely saved my father-in-laws life.
I share this story with students because it reminds me, and them about the danger inherent in warfare, the sacrifice that is asked, and what’s at stake. It’s also a really cool story, and very personal too.