On Nov. 11, 1918, at about 4 a.m. in Leavenworth, an armistice agreement was signed ending the conflict during which there were an estimated 40 million Europeans killed, wounded or displaced, as well as 116,000 American soldier deaths and 200,000 others wounded. The Great War, the War to End All Wars, World War I came to an end. The fearsome noise of battle was replaced by sounds of celebration as citizens took to the streets. According to accounts in “100 Years of Honoring Our Veterans,” Leavenworth shoppers and merchants joined the celebration.
Spontaneous outbursts of the day gradually took shape over the next few years to honor the almost five million Americans who had worn the uniform, the wounded and those doughboys who had given their lives. Parades seemed to be the order of the day. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed an Armistice Day celebration in 1919 and our city followed with its first parade celebration on Nov. 11, 1919. That proclamation has been followed in Leavenworth, with very few exceptions, making this Veterans Day the 101st year of its observance. There have been more than 90 parades during those annual celebrations, as well as church services, dances, gatherings and speeches. We have among the best and probably the oldest Veterans Day parade in the nation.
For those who have not read “100 Years of Honoring Our Veterans,” here are some of the highlights.
1929 – Dedication of a doughboy statue at Victory Junction, where Kansas 7 and Parallel Road intersect.
1944 – Armistice Day became a legal holiday in Kansas.
1954 – President Eisenhower signed a bill changing Armistice Day to Veterans Day.
1956 – A wreath was laid at the doughboy statue at the Leavenworth County Courthouse. Makes one wonder how and when the statue was moved?
1963 – A parade committee was formed.
1978 – Sen. Bob Dole spearheaded legislation to permanently establish Nov. 11 as the official day of celebration.
1986 – Brig. Gen. Alonzo (Doug) Dougherty and wife, Ellen, both of Leavenworth, were grand marshals of the parade.
Monday will be celebration day this year with several events, food, activities and the parade. See you at the Veterans Day parade.
Jim McKinney lives in downtown Leavenworth.