When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today
Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.
World War I was a ghastly conflict with tens of millions of men slaughtered in all the horrors that war in the industrial age was capable of mustering. After the War which ended on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Veterans Day was set aside on November 11 to honor those men who had fought with courage for their country. In our country Veteran’s Day eventually came to honor all those who had served in the military. As Lincoln said at Gettysburg, “It is all together fitting and proper that we do this.” Why it is important that we do that I will leave to Father Francis P. Duffy who served as a chaplain with the Fighting 69th in France in World War I. You may read prior posts about him here and here. Father Duffy was a man of faith and courage, so much courage that it was proposed that he be nominated for the Medal of Honor until he laughed at the idea. His leadership skills were so valued that General Douglas MacArthur even briefly considered placing him, a chaplain, in command of the 69th, which would have been a first in American military history. When the 69th got back to New York after the War Father Duffy wrote about its reception and why it was important to honor the men who had served, and, especially, the silent victors who remained in graves in France:
It was a deserved tribute to a body of citizen soldiers who had played such a manful part in battle for the service of the Republic. The appreciation that the country pays its war heroes is for the best interest of the State. I am not a militarist, nor keen for military glory. But as long as liberties must be defended, and oppression or aggression put down, there must always be honor paid to that spirit in men which makes them willing to die for a righteous cause. Next after reason and justice, it is the highest quality in citizens of a state.
Our fathers in this republic, in their poverty and lowliless, founded many institutions, ecclesiastical, financial, charitable, which have grown stronger with the years. One of these institutions was a military organization, which they passed on to us with the flag of the fifty silver furls. To hese we have added nine more in the latest war of our country. As it was borne up the Avenue flanked by that other banner whose stars of gold commemmorated the six Kindred and fifty dead heroes of the regiment, and sur- rounded by three thousand veterans, I felt that in the breasts of generous and devoted youths that gazed upon them there arose a determination that if, in their generation, the Re- pubHc ever needed defenders, they too would face the peril of battle in their country’s cause.
Men pass away, but institutions survive. In time we shall all go to join our comrades who gave up their lives in France. But in our own generation, when the call came, we accepted the flag of our fathers; we have added to it new glory and renown — and we pass it on.