Capt. David Casteel
Navy ROTC Commanding Officer Capt. David Casteel shared the history of Veterans Day with attendees at the Chez Veterans Center's annual Veterans Day event. (Photo by Fred Zwicky)

Navy Commander Shares History of Veterans Day

Captain David Casteel, Commanding Officer of the Navy ROTC at the University of Illinois and a self-described history buff, illuminated the connection between Veterans Day and the end of World War I during a talk at the Chez Veterans Center. Capt. Casteel was the featured speaker for this year’s Veterans Day event, which also included a luncheon.

Noting that he is the proud son and grandson of military veterans, Capt. Casteel said his passion for military history developed because he was taught from a young age that “if you don’t learn from it, you’re doomed to repeat it.”

While the official end of World War I came with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919, Capt. Casteel said it was the day that hostilities ended that soldiers remembered.

“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns go silent for the first time in ages,” he said. “All of the men know what that silence means, but nobody shouts or throws their hat in the air. Instead, they just listen.”

The silence meant the Great War was over, he said, making November 11, 1918, the day of no more death, the day the soldiers could breathe again, the day they could hope again.

The first observance of November 11 took place in England as Armistice Day in 1919. The US Congress called for the annual observance of November 11 in 1926 and made it a legal holiday as Armistice Day in 1938. It was renamed Veterans Day in 1954 to honor not only those who had fought in World War I but in all wars.

Capt. Casteel, who gave his presentation in civilian clothes, said he did so “to honor everyone, all of you, who no longer put the uniform on.”

“Thank you to all of you who have gone before and all of you who are assuming the watch,” he said.

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