These soldiers were supposed to be enemies. They celebrated Christmas Eve 1914 together.

Trench warfare in World World I was brutal.

In 1914, the western front of the war had trenches where French and English soldiers awaited the next attack from the Germans (or vice versa) or simply wallowed in the frost and mud, biding time.

They were very close to each other in some areas — 60 to 80 yards, less than the length of a football field.


So close that the soldiers could hear each other cough.

And sing.

A barber in a French trench during World War I. Image by Bain News Service via Library of Congress.

The region between the men, past the barbed wire, was known as "no man's land," and it's where some of them met as humans rather than as enemies.

Early on in the war, there was some fraternization between the enemy lines, with soldiers from England and France meeting their enemies from Germany. They exchanged cigarettes, chocolate, and even whisky, learning more words of other languages from each other, sometimes tossing verbal jabs back and forth.

Eventually, some agreed to leave each other alone to get out of the trenches and exercise in the morning rather than shoot at each other.

Or to let each other have a breakfast without worrying about being shot at.

There were widespread calls for peace that holiday season, with even Pope Benedict XV on Dec. 7, 1914, asking for a Christmas truce, so "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang."

Though Germany agreed to this, the other countries refused.


Der Weihnachtsfriede von 1914 (The Christmas Peace of 1914). Image via Imperial War Museums/Wikimedia Commons.

On Christmas Eve that year, what started off on some parts of the front lines as a temporary truce to collect and bury the dead eventually became an exchange between French and German troops of newspapers, cigarettes, and song.

Soon, many of the German soldiers put up tiny Christmas trees on the edges of their trenches — gifts from home — and lit them with candles.

Carols began to ring out, "O Tannenbaum" from the German side, which of course was "Oh, Christmas Tree" for the English. "Adeste Fideles" ("Oh Come, All Ye Faithful") followed.

The Illustrated London News's image of the Christmas Truce: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches." Image via The Illustrated London News/Wikimedia Commons.

Thereafter referred to as "The Christmas Truce," it spread to many sections of the western front and came to symbolize the concept that many soldiers had that this war was not something they'd chosen to fight in and that these men were not people they really wanted to shoot at and would perhaps rather be celebrating with.

In fact, as they got to know each other better, you can imagine them wondering who was in their sights when they pulled the trigger.

Was it someone they were just sharing a chocolate bar with the previous day, after learning about their family back home?

Christmas Truce, 1914. Image via Imperial War Museums/Wikimedia Commons.

In some places up and down the lines, the truce lasted until New Year's Day.

Eventually, the high command on both sides, hearing of the troops that had met on Christmas Eve of 1914, issued orders for such things to cease.

And indeed, just a few years later, the war had become so brutal and the casualties so frequent, this kind of fraternization no longer happened. It was as if a silent shroud had descended between the men that turned them into something other than what they were that night — fellow human beings, very much alike.

Immortalized in the John McCutcheon song, "Christmas in the Trenches," the event has inspired many to rethink why we do what we do to each other as human beings when we fight in wars. Featuring the fictional "Francis Tolliver" but based on the true story of The Christmas Truce, the closing lyrics of the song sum it up nicely:

"My name is Francis Tolliver, in Liverpool I dwell,
Each Christmas come since World War I I've learned its lessons well,
That the ones who call the shots won't be among the dead and lame,
And on each end of the rifle we're the same."


McCutcheon has actually talked to German soldiers who were there; they came to see him perform this song in Denmark in the 1990s and then met him backstage. Listen to him tell the story:

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

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That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!