Exactly one-hundred and one years ago to this date, one of the most brutal wars in human history officially came to an end. Known to us now as Veterans Day, the 11th of November signifies the end of 'the Great War,' or World War I.
Veteran's Day was first commemorated in 1919 (Known then as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day). It was originally intended to only commemorate the soldiers who fought in World War I, but was later expanded to commemorate all soldiers. In 1954, the November 11th holiday was officially changed from 'Armistice Day' to 'Veterans Day'.
I've always been a big history guy - and since I didn't do anything on the centennial anniversary of World War I's end last year, I decided to do something special this year to honor the memories of those who fought in that terrible war. It was a creative project that involved the help of upstart war reenactor Thomas Yip. Together, we created some truly fascinating images that capture the grim history and spirit of the people who fought and died in The Great War.
Thomas and I met through Instagram and bonded over our shared interest in history and memes. He has been involved in war reenactment since he was in High School, and what started as a hobby has become an enveloping passion. He has accumulated a vast collection of historically accurate uniforms from many of the major players of both World Wars, and occasionally travels the country to attend re-enactment events. Thomas walks the talk, too, and joined the Marine Corps Reserve to serve his country; taking the same oath of service that the bygone soldiers he personifies did.
To say the Great War was vicious would be an understatement. At the time it was called 'The War to End all Wars,' as the devastation of this war was unlike anything ever witnessed before in human history. World War I saw the employment of modern weapons such as the Tank, the Machine Gun, and lethal chemical agents like Mustard Gas.
New weapons combined with the old soldiering tactics of wars prior quickly created a deadly morass that produced an unfathomable amount of casualties. Compounding the problem was the prevalence of conscripting 'Pal's Battalions' to fight in the war - groups of men who were all recruited from the same neighborhoods and put in the same fighting units. So that in addition to watching the friends you grew up with die all around you, your neighborhood back home also often lost many of it's fathers and sons all at once. Overall, 9 million of an estimated 70 million soldiers mobilized in World War I died as a direct result of the war. This count does not include the countless more who came back maimed and psychologically scarred from the conflict.
With Veteran's Day approaching, Thomas and I both agreed that this project was an important one for us. Being a war that no longer has any living survivors, it can be easy to forget in the collective conscious. The only things that remain to give testimony of the Great War are the photos and journal entries that were left behind. Over a century later, there is still merit in keeping this war in our thoughts as we observe Veteran's Day. May it remind us that the warriors in our society are NOT expendable and worthy of our veneration and respect. To the veterans reading this: Thank you for your service to our nation.
This Veterans Day, enjoy the holiday with your friends and loved ones. Use your liberty to crack open an ice-cold beer and light up the grill...it's the American way. But also allow for a moment of reflection on the price that was paid exactly one hundred years ago to give us this holiday.
I hope these images resonate with you. We had a great time capturing them. If you'd like to see more from the set, check them out on our Pinterest account. Also, Thomas' Instagram account can be found here if you'd like to see his other reenactment photos.
Happy Veteran's Day,