‘The world came to its senses’: KC marks WWI armistice centennial, Veterans Day

The tolling of the bells at 11 a.m. Sunday, marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, brought tears to the eyes of Leslie Riggs of Independence.

“The bells sound itself was something that was inspiring,” Riggs said. “But because it was paced, it led that crescendo of, we are going from war to peace. I felt really connected to all the loss of life and all the efforts.”

On Veterans Day, Kansas Citians joined others around the world in commemorating the centennial of the armistice that ended shooting on the Western Front.

The National World War I Museum and Memorial held ceremonies Sunday morning in the courtyard of the Liberty Memorial to commemorate the end of the war.

Participants marked the occasion by tolling a bell of peace and laying wreaths in memory of those who died. The first wreath was in memory of those from the United States. The other six honored those from each of the continents involved.

As Riggs looked around the courtyard of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, she couldn’t help thinking about those killed in the war.

“This is a wonderful place particularly because it doesn’t celebrate war as much as it celebrates peace,” Riggs said.

Matthew Naylor, president and chief executive officer of the National WWI Museum and Memorial, called Sunday an emotional day.

“This is an important moment for the world as we commemorate this catastrophe that came to an end 100 years ago,” he said. “It’s moving to see thousands of people come out … marking this moment where the world came to its senses.”

David Shaw of Coralville, Iowa, traveled to Kansas City to honor the memory of his grandfather who served in the war.

“He volunteered in 1917, went to France and didn’t get his gas mask on in time once. And came home and died a lot sooner than he should’ve,” Shaw said. “He was a veteran that served his country and I’m proud to remember him today.”

Shaw was wearing his grandfather’s greatcoat and his helmet.

“I can’t get into his uniform anymore,” Shaw said. “I’m a lot bigger than he was then.”

Jeff Bouma attended with his wife, Jenny, and their two children, 11-year-old Landen and 13-year-old Morgen.

Bouma, who is retired after serving 21 years in the U.S. Army, said he had been planning all year to go to the event because of its historic significance.

“As a former Army officer myself, I think it’s important to recognize those who have served and those who continue to serve,” he said.

“It’s really essential now with two children that they understand the nation’s history.”

He hopes his children never forget those who sacrificed, and those who payed the ultimate sacrifice, for the nation’s freedom and the freedom of all the the nations the U.S. supported.

“I hope that in this generation we don’t get so consumed with the here and the now that we can’t take these lessons that happened 100 years ago and be a more peaceful culture into the future,” Bouma said.

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb
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