Veterans Day and the Centennial of the World War I Armistice

“This coming Sunday will hold a special significance for our country, and I would like to encourage our parishes to reflect and pray on the occasion,” said Diocesan Primate Fr. Daniel Findikyan in a directive to parishes this week.

The Primate’s message on this Sunday’s commemoration of Veterans Daywhich coincides with the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War Iappears below.

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Sunday’s date, November 11, is observed annually by the entire country as Veterans Day: a day to pay tribute to the courageous service and personal sacrifice of American soldiers. I know that at this time of year, nearly all of our parishes express their pride and gratitude to the veterans among them.

As we all know, Veterans Day began as a commemoration of the end of the First World War: the greatest ordeal of bloodshed mankind had endured up to that time. This particular Veterans Day will mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending that terrible and costly war.

One cannot help but think that it is more than coincidental that this milestone falls on the Lord’s Day. For Armenians, of course, it was under the cloak of the First World War that we suffered the greatest calamity ever to befall our people: the Armenian Genocide. We hold fast to the Christian faith that the losses we suffered as a people were crowned with holy martyrdom by our merciful, righteous Lord Jesus Christ—who himself experienced death and suffering alongside his children; yet who overcame the world, and holds out the promise of eternal life to all who honor him.

But Armenians were hardly the only ones to suffer and grieve in the world of that time. Those who lived through the war—especially those who fought it—endured terrible pain and loss. A generation of young men was decimated; many who survived the fighting lived out their lives with physical and psychic scars that never healed. Indeed, it is in light of these incredible sacrifices that we enshrined Veterans Day as one of the most solemn commemorations we share as Americans.

I wish to direct your attention to one such loss: a promising young man who died as the final U.S. officer casualty of World War I—whose life was taken a mere hour before the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918. That man was the Reverend William Francis Davitt, age 32, a Catholic chaplain from Worcester, Massachusetts. That city itself holds great significance to Armenian Americans, for a generation before the war it had become home to America’s very first Armenian Church, named Sourp Prgich, or the Church of Our Saviour.

There is a special sadness in the thought that the death of this young man of God, a man of peace, was the final entry, as it were, in the long list of casualties of that war. We cannot help recalling the long list of clergymen from our own church, who died in that same period as victims of the Genocide. It is in the face of such stories of loss that we can appreciate how truly urgent our prayers are, when we ask our Lord to bring peace, mercy, and justice to the world.

I invite our clergy to reflect on Rev. Davitt’s story, and perhaps share it with parishioners in your sermon this Sunday. A newspaper article on him can be read by clicking here.

With this directive, I also ask that our parishes remember the departed veterans of our community during the hokekankisd service.

May our risen Savior remember all the sacrifices of his children, and grant them peace in his heavenly kingdom.

With my prayers,

Very Rev. Fr. Daniel Findikyan

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