As student teachers preparing to teach history and social studies, we needed to develop a unit of study. I chose World War I, and, as Robert Frost said in The Road Not Taken, "that has made all the difference." I was enthralled with the notion of a historical watershed. The idea that the Great War changed the way people thought -- not just how they thought about war, but how they thought about everything -- captured me. After the war people’s ideals and beliefs about patriotism, authority, religion and class were different than they’d been before. Even now that realization staggers me.
Well, of course, I got obsessed with soldiers’ lives. Because of family lore, I was especially drawn to the Irish soldiers who fought in the British Army. I couldn't look at enough pictures or read enough journals. Many of the soldiers’ journals mention the lack of feeling that came over the men when the fighting stopped at the time of the Armistice. It was almost as if they couldn't celebrate the cessation of war, because they were grieving. They grieved for their buddies and for what the war had done to the world and its ideals. They grieved for what the war had killed inside of them -- the thing that could never come back.
It’s Armistice Day. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, we remember.