Sunday, November 11, 2018, marked the hundredth anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War. The calamity that broke open the 20th century took the lives of millions of people worldwide and hundreds of thousands of Americans, including 264 Cornellians. Two Sun editors also paid the ultimate price in service of their country: editor in chief Lt. Leslie Herbert Groser 1913 and associate editor Lt. Edward Foreman Graham 1914.
World War I ended 100 years ago, and every day there are fewer and fewer survivors of that generation from whom we can learn. Soon, there will be no one left who remembers firsthand the horrors that descended upon Europe, no one who recalls how a century’s worth of nationalism, militarization and colonialism boiled over into an armageddon of global proportions.
It is good to celebrate Veterans’ Day and to commemorate the armistice. It is even better to remember every day the toll that war takes on nations, their citizens and their defenders. It can be far too easy to forget the sacrifice and the damage that war entails, and to circumscribe our remembrance to a few days a year is to do a disservice to our veterans, their families, all people affected by war and the nation as a whole.
Cornell supplied the war effort with 4,598 commissioned officers, more than any other institution, including the US Military Academy at West Point. The University hosted an entire aviation school for the Army. Just a century ago, Cornell was pouring everything it had into the war effort.
And yet, aside from a few studious members of the “First American University” course, few likely know about Cornell’s history with the war. The same goes for Cornell’s efforts during the Second World War, which were even more extensive and led to lasting changes in the University’s academic and social organization.
When we forget about war’s costs as a nation, we are far more likely to tolerate its invocation and repeated use. In Afghanistan, America has been at war for 17 years — the longest war in our history — and yet we hear less and less about it every day. Indeed, across the globe, Americans are fighting wars; some are public, and many are hidden from us.
So take a moment this week to remember the people who sacrificed everything. Remember Lieutenants Groser and Graham, and all those who served or died alongside them in WWI, but also remember all those before and since. Think about those still serving today, and reflect on how we should do good by them today and every day after.