To all of our military, to the families who lost loved ones, to those who have been hurt in the line of duty; we honor you all today and every day. My grandfather fought in WWI, and my dad in WWII. In both their generations, their spiritual and mental trauma were things that they kept to themselves. They simply lived with it, but it changed them forever.
I had a friend whose laughing young husband was part of the liberation of the death camps in Germany. My friend, his wife; told me that he went there a happy carefree young man, and came home a sober old man.
Back then, any mental problems from the wars were lumped together and called “battle fatigue” or “shell shock.” No one really understood it or knew how to help back then. Veterans from those generations seem to find comfort in the silence and company of other veterans. Often there are no words spoken; just being together in silence seems to to be enough.
It is on this day (and actually every day) that I understand that the freedoms we enjoy today were bought and paid for in blood and sacrifice. Most of us in America cannot comprehend what it is like living in any form of government but democracy. We know that this, too, has its faults, but imagine what it would be like to live under anything else.
It is also on this day that I remember what surely must be the most famous war memorial poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae:
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!
Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium
May we never forget that our freedoms have a high price. May we always honor our military men and women.