Remembering the fallen

remembering the fallen
Today is Veterans Day, also known as Remembrance Day and Armistice Day because in 1918, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, World War One ended.

For four years the nations of the world had torn each other apart. The Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed, the Ottoman Empire was mortally wounded, Germany’s Kaiser’s fell and so did Russia’s Czar. The world changed forever and 20 million people were dead.

There are countless monuments honoring those killed. The most powerful, I think, is this one. It’s called The Grieving Parents and was erected in 1932 by Käthe Kollwitz, a German artist. Kollwitz’s youngest son Peter was killed while serving in the German army. The monument is in the cemetery at Vladslo, Belgium, where he’s buried. The faces of the parents are those of Käthe and her husband. Her husband looks at Peter’s grave while Käthe bends over in grief. So many young men are buried in this cemetery that Peter’s name shares a tombstone with nineteen others.

Whether you’re on the road or staying at home today, there’s probably a war memorial near you where people are remembering the fallen. Take a moment to visit it, even if it’s for the “other side.” After all this time that doesn’t really matter.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

National parks free for Veterans Day

The National Park Service will host its final fee free day for 2010 this Thursday, November 11th, in honor of Veterans Day, allowing travelers to experience more than 100 parks that generally charge admission at no cost. For a complete list of those parks, grouped by state, click here.

A number of the parks will host special ceremonies or commemorative events to honor America’s veterans, including Valley Forge, the birthplace of America’s army, which will hold a moment of silence and a wreath laying-ceremony at 11AM near the National Memorial Arch. There will also be living history interpreters near the Muhlenberg Brigade huts throughout the day who will share insights and thoughts on the history of the place. Meanwhile, visitors to Morristown Historical National Park, located in New Jersey, can enjoy a new trail that is 27 miles in length and wanders through George Washington’s historic army encampment.

The Park Service’s fee free days have been quite a hit with travelers over the past couple of years, drawing visitors in by the thousands, and helping to set new attendance records across the system. It seems they’re planning on continuing the practice in 2011 as well, as they have already announced that entry to the parks will be free from April 16-24 to celebrate National Parks Week, and again on September 24 for Public Lands Day and November 11 for Veterans Day. More dates are expected to be announced soon.

Additionally, a number of the parks’ partners will also be offering special discounts, prizes, and other deals to visitors on Veterans Day. Click here to view a sampling of those special offers.

[Photo credit: National Park Service]

Veterans thanked with free bed and breakfast stays

If you’ve served your country, there’s a bed and breakfast waiting to serve you.

Many B&Bs already give military discounts of 10 percent to 20 percent, but a Shinnston, West Virginia innkeeper is about to up the ante. Kathleen Panek has gotten more than 525 inns in 48 states (and two in Canada) on board with her plan give rooms away to active and retired service members on November 10, 2010, the night before Veterans Day.

Panek got the idea two years ago, and started with her own inn, Gillum House. Last year, it spread to a total of 10 in West Virginia, and this year, it has obviously surged.

Part of the reason for the success is that Panek has kept her expectations reasonable. USA Today reports:

Since most B&Bs are small, “we only ask inns to give one room,” Panek says, and about 25%-30% of participating establishments – including all those in Georgia, Missouri, Washington and several other states – are already full. But, she adds, “we’re getting new places signing up every day.”

Do you plan to do anything for Veterans Day? Leave a comment, and let us know!

[photo by Beverly & Pack via Flickr]

Happy birthday King Wangchuck and other national holidays

Going to a far-flung destination and want to connect with the people and see something special? One easy way is through local and national holidays. These are often unique to a particular country and provide insights into its culture and history. But it can often be hard to find out what’s going on next week in Tuvalu.

The Holidays Around the World blog is your answer, providing daily updates on all the major happenings. Today, for example, is the birthday of the fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. He abdicated last year, but his birthday is still a national holiday. The website does more than list holidays, it goes into detail about what you can expect while you’re there. Today the people of Bhutan are celebrating by eating emadatse (chili pepper and cheese stew) and chang (warm beer made from barley, millet or rice). If it’s anything like Tibetan chang, be careful. With the high altitudes in the Himalayas this stuff gave me the worst hangover I’ve ever had.

November 11 is, of course, the anniversary of the end of the First World War. The ceasefire started on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. The soldiers on both sides knew it was coming, but instead of keeping a low profile until the war officially ended, they blasted away at each other with a massive artillery barrage. People are weird. This holiday is known as Armistice Day in France, Remembrance Day in Canada, and a more general Veterans Day in the United States.

So head on over to this cool little blog, and don’t forget to dance in the streets tomorrow to celebrate Azerbaijan’s Constitution Day.

Give the gift of travel for Veteran’s Day

Innkeepers across the country are doing something important to me: they’re offering discounts, specials and free nights to the people whose sacrifices let us enjoy our freedom to move. Inns that are members of BedandBreakfast.com are taking care of military personnel and first responders who are taking breaks from their tough lives. The deals vary by inn, but it’s worth a look for anybody who puts his or her life on the line at home or abroad.

And, I’m happy to report, there’s more.

Veteran’s Day is coming up, and BedandBreakfast.com is celebrating the service of so many by supporting Fisher House Foundation, a private-public partnership that supports members of the military when they’re in need. To participate, pick up a Getaway Gift Card from BedandBreakfast.com, and use the promotional code FisherBB. This is a great gift for a holiday that most people seem to overlook. They come in values ranging from $25 to $2,000 and can be printed online or mailed to the recipient in foil-lined envelopes. Do the latter – it’s not often these sorts of thank you gestures arrive on November 11.

Even if you’re not planning to participate in this deal, e-mail, tweet or otherwise spread the word. Let’s all chip in and help a few people who put their lives on hold for years to keep us safe.