100th anniversary of WWI commemorated at Michigan State Capitol

LANSING, MI, UNITED STATES

11.09.2018

Story by Spc. Samantha Hall 

Michigan National Guard

The Imlay City High School Choir sings above World War I commemoration ceremony organized by the Michigan World War 1 Commission was held Nov. 8, 2018, in the Michigan State Capitol rotunda in Lansing, Michigan. Members of the American Legion Post 502 served as color guard, front, during the ceremony.

Lansing, Michigan – 100 years ago today, Michigan National Guardsman fought their way across an impossibly large stretch of the Western Front of Europe toward the goal to end the war to end all wars. The result of their efforts came in the form of an armistice, or cease-fire, two days later on the 11th hour of the 11th day of November, a date now recognized as Veterans Day.

“Often times Veterans Day revolves around those who served and recognition of those families who lost somebody in combat. But only on events like this, like the 100th anniversary of World War I, we are forced to reflect on the sacrifice that was made on such a large scale,” said U.S. Army Major General Michael A. Stone, commander of the 46th Military Police Command, at the World War I commemoration ceremony organized by the Michigan World War I Commission held Nov. 8, 2018 in the Michigan State Capitol rotunda in Lansing, Michigan.

According to Stone, the Michigan National Guard was placed under the control of the federal government in 1917 to begin the mobilization of approximately 100,000 Soldiers through Fort Custer, near Augusta, Michigan. The U.S. lost over 160,000 service members in the following year of warfare; for perspective, less than 60,000 were lost during the span of the Vietnam War, which was considered a catastrophic loss.

Included in the fighting was the 119th Field Artillery Battalion, then and now headquartered in Lansing, Michigan. They played a direct role in the battle that lead to the final defeat of the enemy.

After nine months in the war, facing five straight months of combat while working to convert from horse-drawn to motorized artillery, the 119th joined the 79th division on the front lines and, on Nov. 1, launched what was later considered “one of the best and most organized reconnaissance field artillery attacks” that had been seen on the Western front, according to Stone. They covered a front of 16 miles and smashed the enemy’s defenses for a depth of 7 miles, breaking the resistance and leading to the climax of the final assault that defeated the enemy.

On the 100th anniversary of the resulting armistice, the sacrifice of these and the thousands of other service members since were recognized in the Michigan capital in an event organized by the World War I Commission. In attendance were veterans of the American Legion Post 502, the Blue Star Mothers, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley and key members of the commission. On the balcony above the rotunda, the Imlay City High School Choir, or the “Spartan Harmony”, sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” into the dome of the capitol with the haunting resonance of a cathedral hymn. The ceremony concluded with the reading by Jerry Benson of “We Shall Keep the Faith”, a poem written by Moina Michael.

The service and its careful honoring of history “raises the bar for the current generation” in honoring its veterans, said Calley.
This sentiment will surely go onward, in the words of the poem for which red poppies are worn on Veterans Day:

“We cherish too the poppy red, / That grows on the fields where valor led. / It seems to signal to the skies, / That the blood of heroes never dies… Fear naught that ye have died for naught, / We’ll teach the lessons that ye wrought / in Flanders Fields.”

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