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Every Day Is Veterans Day

Something for the weekend.  Eternal Father.  Today I have the honor of delivering the Veterans Day speech in my village of Dwight.  The speech was written by  my son, Donald John McClarey, who was sworn in as an attorney on Thursday, and who will be joining me to work our law mines.  Here is the text of the speech:

 

 

It is the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Ninety-nine years ago today, the guns on the Western Front fell silent and World War One ended. After such a great and terrible war, it was only natural that this day became a holiday. Woodrow Wilson proclaimed today Armistice Day in 1919 and thirty states made it a state holiday that same year. In 1938, this day became a national holiday by act of Congress. In 1954, after World War Two, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, to honor all the veterans of all of America’s conflicts.

 

Falling as it does on the day World War One ended, a war that has so greatly shaped our world, as so many of our conflicts in the last century and beyond have, in a sense it is fitting that a holiday celebrating all veterans should be held today. However, in a larger sense, in a far greater sense, is there really only one particular day when we should honor our veterans? No, there is not. In reality, every day is Veterans Day, because the actions and sacrifices of our veterans mark every day we live. They have made the world we live in, and we must ever thank them for what they did for us, both at home and throughout the Earth.

 

 

This sounds perhaps overblown, but it is really just a statement of fact. Who is fighting the Taliban and ISIS? Who fought Communism and won the Cold War? Who fought the Nazis and the Empire of Japan? Who fought the Civil War? Who won our independence? The answer is always the same: veterans, American veterans. Most of them ordinary men, and sometimes ordinary women, at first blush no different from anyone you would meet walking around Dwight, who decided to do something extraordinary and stand up for the ideals this nation was founded on, to defeat tyranny and defend liberty, both here and abroad. These ideals are best summed up in the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

 

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These words have always had an immense impact, with the sheer weight of what they promise to all of us, to all mankind. But it is all too easy to imagine worlds where these words are just empty, high-sounding ink on an old piece of parchment, no more important to us than a scribble on a post-it note that we have crumpled and thrown away. It scarcely bears imagining, worlds where the Declaration and everything it promised would be seen as just a historical curiosity, or, at worst, trash, consigned to the forgotten past by those who rule our world. In order to appreciate what our veterans have accomplished, let us imagine such bleak alternate worlds where the truths of the Declaration were defeated.

 

 

Imagine the Declaration under glass in a British museum displaying documents from a failed American colonial revolt in the 1700s, that was just a minor disturbance on the road to breaking the Thirteen Colonies to the distant will of London. Or, in another world, the Declaration being displayed in a different exhibit, one on the founding documents of a failed republic that tore itself apart over slavery in the 1860s, first in two, then into more fragments of a great nation, as secession became a valid option for any grievance, and states fled a failing Union. Or, worst of all, the Declaration being burnt to ashes as Fascist or Communist armies paraded through our streets, ushering in a new era of hideous nightmares for all mankind.

 

 

The last world is unquestionably the most terrifying because in our world those ideologies murdered hundreds of millions of people and terrorized billions more during the past century. One can only imagine the horrors that would have been unleashed in a world where their madness and evil ruled supreme, bringing all that misery and bloodshed right to our homes, to our families. I have no doubt most of us know loved ones who died fighting in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. I’d like you all to join me in a brief moment of silence for them and for everyone who has died because of those murderous ideologies our veterans fought.

 

 

But we, thankfully, do not live in any of those worlds. We do not live in those worlds because the generations here, and the generations before, did not let them come to pass. Veterans of the past and veterans of today, embodying that which is best in all of us, stood and fought on countless battlefields to preserve the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, bringing us the peace and freedom we enjoy in this country today.

 

 

We live in a world where America stands for freedom. Let me repeat that sacred word: freedom! Many in this day and age like to scoff at that assertion, but we know that no other nation enjoys such a bonding to that noble ideal. Our veterans and their deeds are living proof of that. If anyone looks at the battles they fought, and why they were fought, they will know that America fights for freedom. The victories of our veterans were not just victories for our freedom, but for the freedom of all humanity.

 

Men and women throughout the globe do not look to Britain, Germany, Canada, Mexico, or any other nation to serve as beacons of liberty, beacons for the rights of all. They look to America because they know that throughout its history American soldiers have always striven to uphold those ideals. And so, going back to the beginning of this speech, every day is Veterans Day, because every day we live in the world they made, under God, and for this our veterans deserve every honor we can bestow.

 

 

Everything we enjoy, our veterans gave to us, often at a high price for themselves. Our safety, our prosperity, and most importantly, our freedom, were all made possible by their blood and sacrifice. They made a world where this nation stands tallest among all others, and a world where all men, even if they still groan under a tyrant’s rule, know of the American promise of freedom. When our veterans signed up, they knew what high price their duty might demand to protect our homes and our loved ones. They answered the call, and we are ever in their debt. And so on this day, and on all days, we should thank our veterans, not only for their service, but for all we have. May God bless and cherish our veterans, and the country which they have so nobly served.

 

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October 24, 1977: Last Veterans Day in October

Then the teacher brought her arms down and the kids began to sing … I Knew why I felt at home.  The spirit of freedom was hovering over that play yard as it did all over France at that time. A country was free again. A people had recovered their independence and their children were grateful. They were singing in French, but the melody was freedom and any American could understand that.  America, at that moment, never meant more to me …
Audie Murphy describing a 1948 return visit to France

 

 

 

 

 

Due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act Veterans Day was celebrated on the fourth Monday in October in 1971-1977.  Veterans’ groups were appalled and the date was shifted back to the traditional November 11 in 1978 where it has remained.

On September 20, 1975, President Gerald Ford, a Navy combat veteran of World War II, signed the law returning Veterans Day to November 11:

I HAVE signed into law today S. 331, a bill which will return the annual observance of Veterans Day from the Fourth Monday in October to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supports the expressed will of the overwhelming majority of our State legislatures, all major veterans service organizations, and many individuals.

Under a law enacted in 1968, the fourth Monday in October was designated for the observance of Veterans Day. Since that law took effect, it has become apparent that the commemoration of this day on November 11 is a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens. It is a practice deeply and firmly rooted in our customs and traditions. Americans have appreciated and wish to retain the historic significance of November 11 as the day set aside each year by a grateful nation to remember and honor those, living and dead, who fought to win and preserve our freedom.

I believe restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 will help preserve in the hearts and lives of all Americans the spirit of patriotism, the love of country, and the willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good symbolized by this very special day.

2

CS Lewis Explains Veterans Day For Us

 

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

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Thank You

(I originally ran this post back on Veteran’s Day 2010.  I have updated it and am running it again since the passage of time renders it more urgent.)

Time is doing what the Nazis and the Imperial Japanese could not do:  vanquishing our World War II generation.  The youngest American veteran of that conflict would now be 88, and in the next fifteen years or so they will all be in eternity.  Time now to express our heartfelt gratitude for what they accomplished for the country.  They have been called the greatest generation.  I am sure that most of them would reject that title, maybe putting in a vote for the generation that won the American Revolution or the generation that fought the Civil War.  Modesty has been a hallmark of their generation.  When I was growing up in the Sixties, most of them were relatively young men in their late thirties or forties.  If you asked them about the war they would talk about it but they would rarely bring it up.  They took their service for granted as a part of their lives and nothing special.   So those of us who knew them often took it for granted too.  Uncle Chuck, he works at the Cereal Mills, and, oh yeah, he fought in the Pacific as a Marine.  Uncle Bill, he has a great sense of humor and I think he was in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered to MacArthur.  When they talked about the war it was usually some humorous anecdote, often with some self-deprecating point.  They’d talk about some of the sad stuff too, but you could tell that a lot of that was pretty painful for them, so you didn’t press them.  They were just husbands and fathers, uncles and cousins.  The fact that the janitor at the school won a silver star on Saipan, or  the mayor of the town still walked with a limp from being shot on D-Day, was just a normal part of life, like going to school or delivering papers. Continue Reading

4

The True Meaning of Veterans’ Day

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.

When I was a boy there was a middle aged man who walked with a pronounced limp around our neighborhood.  The rumor around among the kids of the neighborhood was that he wasn’t right in the head and that he was a drunk.  His face was disfigured and we kids called him gympie, although not, mercifully, to his face.  One day I remarked to my father that we called this man gympie.  My father rarely got angry, but he did on that occasion.  He told me that man was a hero.  He had served in the Army during the Korean War, had been captured by the Chinese and had been tortured by them.  They had broken his right leg repeatedly and had used branding irons on his face.  He never gave in to them and would not tell them anything but his name, rank and serial number.  By the time he was exchanged at the end of the war his health was destroyed and his mind had been shattered by his experiences.  He returned to his home town and was cared for by his parents.  The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars in town had annual collections for him to supplement his Army pension so he would never be in financial need.  By the end of this recitation I was in tears.  That day taught me the true meaning of Veterans’ Day:  service above self. Continue Reading

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Making Mock of Uniforms

 Honor

 

 

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

John Stuart Mill

 

 

Just in time for Veterans Day!  David Masciotra at Salon has a piece that perfectly encapsulates the contempt and hate many on the left have for those who serve in our military.  The opening paragraph is a treasure trove of the pre-occupations of leftists in this country:

 

 

Put a man in uniform, preferably a white man, give him a gun, and Americans will worship him. It is a particularly childish trait, of a childlike culture, that insists on anointing all active military members and police officers as “heroes.” The rhetorical sloppiness and intellectual shallowness of affixing such a reverent label to everyone in the military or law enforcement betrays a frightening cultural streak of nationalism, chauvinism, authoritarianism and totalitarianism, but it also makes honest and serious conversations necessary for the maintenance and enhancement of a fragile democracy nearly impossible.

 

1.  Anti-white racism?  Check.

2.  Contempt for American culture?  Check.

3.  Hatred of patriotism?  Check.

4.  Paranoia about authoritarianism and/or totalitarianism for those who do not share the political views of the left?  Check. Continue Reading

4

A Thought for Veteran’s Day

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.

When I was a boy in grade school we used to have a program in school whenever Veteran’s Day fell on a school day.  There would be a speech and three veterans, one from World War I, one from World War II and one from the Korean War, would form an honor guard.  I can’t recall any of the speeches, but I can clearly recall the faces of the veterans.  They were always the same three men, and they would stand rigidly at attention throughout the speech.  Their silent witness spoke more eloquently to me than any words could.

We honor veterans because of their willingness to die for us if need be during their military service.  All men fear death, but veterans had to put that fear aside during their period of service.  Even if they served in peace time or in a safe billet, the possibility of death, usually at a very young age was always a possibility.  This is enough of a reason to honor veterans.

Additionally, we can hope that the sacrifices that veterans make will ultimately lead to a better world.  Rossiter  Johnson in 1884 noted that while we celebrate the courage of our veterans there are other lessons to be drawn from war if we have the wit to discern them and to teach them to the young.  I think the lessons of the Civil War were learned by the nation, at least we haven’t had another such fratricidal conflict:

 

It is poor business measuring the mouldered ramparts and counting the silent guns, marking the deserted battlefields and decorating the grassy graves, unless we can learn from it some nobler lesson than to destroy.  Men write of this, as of other wars, as if the only thing necessary to be impressed upon the rising generation were the virtue of physical courage and contempt of death.  It seems to me that is the last thing we need to teach;  for since the days of John Smith in Virginia and the men of the Mayflower in Massachusetts, no generation of Americans has shown any lack of it.  From Louisburg to Petersburg-a hundred and twenty years, the full span of four generations-they have stood to their guns and been shot down in greater comparative numbers than any other race on earth.  In the war of secession there was not a State, not a county, probably not a town, between the great lakes and the gulf, that was not represented on fields where all that men could do with powder and steel was done and valor exhibited at its highest pitch…There is not the slightest necessity for lauding American bravery or impressing it upon American youth.  But there is the gravest necessity for teaching them respect for law, and reverence for human life, and regard for the rights of their fellow country-men, and all that is significant in the history of our country…These are simple lessons, yet they are not taught in a day, and some who we call educated go through life without mastering them at all.

Rossiter Johnson, Campfire and Battlefield, 1884

One can hope that some day the scourge of war will be relegated to the history books.  Until that time we honor the Veterans who were called upon once in their lives to perhaps part with life itself, if need be, for the rest of us. Continue Reading

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Veteran’s Day: Why We Remember

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

1

Veterans Day: John 15:13

“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

8

CS Lewis Explains Why We Honor Veterans

 

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

Veterans Day 2008

veterans_day

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)

4

Lest We Forget

gkcmarines

TO THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR
by G.K.Chesterton

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.