100th Anniversary of the End of World War I

Written by: Donna L. Crisp, National Vice Chair, Commemorative Events, World War One Centennial/Treaty of Versailles
November 28, 2018

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, the guns of WWI became silent. In our Nation’s capital, the WWI Centennial Commission held a weeklong commemoration of the end of the War to End All Wars, with individual programs at Pershing Park paying tribute to the home front; and to the women, Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos who contributed to our winning the war and for whom barriers were broken in the process. Our military was honored with wreaths from all U.S. states and territories.

As we learned during the week, this was a war that touched and involved every American, young and old, in an incredible mobilization of people. Boy Scouts collected all of the black walnut wood used in rifles and made up 25% of the Washington, DC firemen. Girl Scouts helped the Red Cross nurses, rolled bandages, knitted gloves and sweaters, and offered comfort to injured and dying soldiers. Housewives learned how to grow and can food. Twelve thousand Native Americans, not yet American citizens, enlisted because they could not be drafted. For the first time, women served in the military as something other than nurses – they also worked in offices and served on the battle front as Hello Girls ensuring that critical communications went through. As one speaker reminded us, “we stand on their shoulders.” It also ushered in the American Century.

The commemorations also brought home the human side of the war. Purple Hearts Reunited returned five lost Purple Heart medals to the families of those brave heroes, while also telling their stories. We were reminded by Sergeant York’s writings that this war was an installment on our freedom. We had the opportunity to see the model for the National WWI Memorial, which tells “The Soldier’s Journey,” and hear from Sabin Howard (Sculptor) and Joe Weishaar (Designer) and their desire to create something that showed the process of being human in war and not its glorification. This point was also brought home when the Washington National Cathedral’s magnificent bourdon bell tolled 21 times, exactly 100 years after the armistice, during an incredibly moving Armistice Day Centennial sacred service held there. The service honored those who served in WWI, telling their stories through poems, readings and music. Prayers for peace reminded us why so many fought. Finally, with bagpipes wailing, a wreath was laid at President Wilson’s tomb.

The bells continued to ring throughout the country, as 10,000 people and organizations tolled bells as part of the World War I Centennial Commission Bells of Peace commemorating the Centennial of the Armistice and the service and sacrifice of the nation’s veterans.  The Centennial Commemoration of World War I honored more than 4.7 million Americans who served during WWI, more than 204,000 Americans who returned home wounded and 116,516 U.S. Americans who died.  The Great War touched all citizens and shaped our nation.

Daughters, thank you for all that you did in commemorating WWI. Your presence at events world-wide honored our veterans.  You have participated and hosted events, repaired memorials, crafted history minutes, honored military and civilians with wreaths and shared stories and photos.  You have touched citizens in every city and state, as well as countries overseas.  Thank you for honoring our heroes of WWI.

Photos and selected poems will be posted in the DAR WWI Facebook page. Special thanks to the DAR WWI Commemorative Events 100th Anniversary of World War I/Treaty of Versailles team Dr. Sharla Rausch for representing DAR at World War I Centennial Commission meetings, giving presentations, developing a toolkit, and posting information on the Facebook page; Holly Lynne M. Schmidt for shaping our participation in 100 cities and 100 memorials; Debora Long for establishing and managing an incredible Facebook page supporting 847 Daughters; and Mary Levine for assisting with the Facebook page. In addition, a special thanks to the DAR Archives and Public Relations Staff.  Their research, advice and support helped each state hit the mark and exceed all expectations.  

The DAR WWI Facebook page will be open until June to ensure coverage of the 100th Anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles and share pictures from the DAR Commemorative Events WWI award winners. 

 

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