100 years honoring our veterans

I took a little trip into the past this week. I wanted to find out what Pine County did to honor its veterans on Nov. 11, 1919 – the very first Armistice Day, which was changed in 1954 to Veterans Day. And I found what I was looking for in the pages of the Pine Poker.

According to the Poker, most of the towns in Pine County held some sort of a celebration on the day they described as, “the first anniversary of the event that sent the world into paroxysms of joy and celebration. One year ago the world could hardly believe that the greatest of all wars had come to an end, this year we celebrate, not with the same vociferousness, but with the same thankfulness in our hearts that the reign of bloodshed and fighting is a thing of the past...”

On Page 1 of the Poker it said that the Pine City post of the American Legion would hold an Armistice Day celebration and dance in the armory, on Saturday, Nov. 15, 1919.

“The hall has been decorated in the national colors, and it’s worth anyone’s time to go just to see the decorations. The members of the post will be in uniform. Dudley’s military orchestra of St. Paul will furnish the music. The dance committee has been informed of a number that are coming from the cities and also parties from the surrounding towns that are planning on attending.

“Don’t fail to attend this dance,” the article continued. “The boys are entitled to our patronage but regardless of that fact we will have an enjoyable evening, one long to be remembered, and will get our money’s worth in the form of a good time.”

I’m sure it was a good time. It had to have been exhilarating to welcome home all the soldiers who had been deployed so long and been through so much, along with the sadness and heartbreak in remembering all those we had lost.

That same issue of the Poker printed a letter to the country from President Woodrow Wilson, the president who led us through World War I. Here it is in full:

ADDRESS TO FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN

The White House, Nov. 11, 1919.

A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.

– WOODROW WILSON

We’ve been saying it for 100 years, and I don’t think we can ever say it enough. Thank you, veterans.

Mike Gainor is the editor of the Pine City Pioneer. Contact him at editor@pinecitymn.com or 320-322-5241.

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