In Memorium

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.

 

Veterans’ Day Remembered

Today please let us all remember our veterans of all wars. Let us shake their hands and thank them for our freedoms for which they paid so dearly. Let us remember these heroic men and women who fought for our way of life. They deserve our respect, honor, love, and thanks on this and every other day of the year.

The following is Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, which has brought me to grateful tears more than once. I hope that it touches your heart as it has mine.

St. Crispin’s Day Speech, William Shakespeare, 1599

WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING: What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,

What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-

Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.