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. Continue reading
“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”
Epitaph on the Memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima
War is a curious part of the human condition. It is a summary of the worst that Man is capable of: violence on a massive scale, cruelty, greed, hatred, and the magnification of every human vice. Few of us are more “anti-war” than those who have had the misfortune to fight in one and witnessed all the folly, loss and endless pain produced by the inability of men to frequently resolve their differences without resort to the sword. Yet, in war we also see men rise to the heights of what we are capable of at our best: self-sacrifice, courage, love and the magnification of every human virtue. War as the direst of human institutions is to be bitterly regretted, but we must ever pay homage to those who find themselves in this terrible maelstrom and acquit themselves with honor. Continue reading
When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today. Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Division at Kohima.
We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, God permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters
Sometimes simple questions can help illuminate great truths. Why do we honor veterans?
Today is Veterans Day. Ironically, many veterans will be working today as the “holiday” is mostly one solely for government workers, and most veterans in the private sector will be on the job today. Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day and was observed to recall the ending of that conflict on November 11, 1918 and to honor the American veterans who served in it. After World War II, veterans of World War I, many of whom had sons who served in World War II, spearheaded a move to change the name to Veterans Day to honor all Veterans. Legislation changing the name of the holiday was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Eisenhower on May 26, 1954. All well and good, but why do we set this day aside to honor those who have served in the military?
One veteran of World War I, CS Lewis, perhaps can help us understand why we honor veterans. Lewis served on the Western Front as a Second Lieutenant in 1917-1918 until he was wounded on April 15, 1918. Lewis, the future Oxford Don, was an unlikely soldier and he wrote about his experiences in the War with humorous self-deprecation. However, he had immense respect for those he served with, especially the enlisted men under his command, for their good humor and courage under the most appalling circumstances. His war experiences had a vast impact on Lewis, as can be seen in his Screwtape letters, where Lewis writes about war. Continue reading
Lord Jesus, Mighty Warrior and Prince of Peace, through the intercession of St. Michael and Our Lady of Victory, we pray for the protection of our loved ones called to serve in time of war. By Your grace, o Lord, may they be strong and of good courage. And by your grace also, may we at home renounce all fear and anxiety, place our trust fully in your most Merciful Heart, and await in hope. For though we may walk through the shadow of the Valley of death, we shall fear no evil- You are with us.Grant a decisive and just end to this war, lasting peace for all nations, and the safe return home of all our loved ones. AMEN. (CatholicMil.org)
TO THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR
You whom the kings saluted; who refused not
The one great pleasure of ignoble days,
Fame without name and glory without gossip,
Whom no biographer befouls with praise.
Who said of you “Defeated”? In the darkness
The dug-out where the limelight never comes,
Nor the big drum of Barnum’s show can shatter
That vibrant stillness after all the drums.
Though the time comes when every Yankee circus
Can use our soldiers for its sandwich-men,
When those that pay the piper call the tune,
You will not dance. You will not move again.
You will not march for Fatty Arbuckle,
Though he have yet a favourable press,
Tender as San Francisco to St. Francis
Or all the angels of Los Angeles.
They shall not storm the last unfallen fortress,
The lonely castle where uncowed and free,
Dwells the unknown and undefeated warrior
That did alone defeat Publicity.