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.

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.

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  1. Your account of how General MacArthur wished to give Fr Duffy command of the 69th reminds me of another remarkable Allied chaplain.

    In 1939, Père Louis de la Trinité was Prior Provincial of the Paris Province of the Discalced Carmelites. He had served with distinction as a naval lieutenant during WWI and, as a member of the Reserve, he was recalled to the navy; members of religious congregations were not exempt from military service. After the Fall of France, he escaped to England and volunteered as a chaplain in the Free French Navy on 30 June 1940.

    Alas, such was the shortage of experienced officers that De Gaulle successfully applied to his superiors for him to take up the appointment of Chief of Staff of the Free French Naval Forces. He commanded the naval forces at the landings in Gabon and the combined operations at Dakar. Having undertaking several naval commands and diplomatic missions during the war, after the Liberation, he was sent to Indo-China as High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief.

    In 1947, Admiral Georges Thierry d’Argenlieu, Inspector-General of Maritime Forces, retired and finally returned to his convent at Avon-Fontainebleau.

    On a personal note, in 1955 he clothed me with the scapular of the Third Order of Mount Carmel.

  2. I think it is more than fitting that the Gospel reading for the Mass today is from 12:38-44 about the poor widow who gave everything she had and that today is also Veteran’s Day. A fitting coincidence.

  3. As I was holding my squirming 11 month old son, it was hard to concentrate on the Gospel. I took my family (despite my wife’s reluctance) to the Pittsburgh TLM this morning. I am tired of wishy washy Masses. I do not want to hear a Marty Haugen hymn ever again.

    One other significant thing to note – today, November 11, is Independence Day in Poland. As World War I concluded with the defeat of Germany and Austria-Hungary, independence was reestablished in Poland after 123 years. Poland fought several battles against Germany to reclaim the portion of Poland that Germany continued to occupy (Greater Poland) after WWI until about March 1919.

  4. I’m old enough to remember when November 11 was “Armistice Day.”

    I read (I guess it’s true) there is no living WWI veteran: faded away.

  5. Another Catholic fact about 11 November. It seems it’s Martinmas, the Feast of St. Martin, which is commemorated by traditions in various European countries.

    Famously, St. Martin, as a Roman soldier, cut his soldier’s cloak in two to save a beggar from freezing. Again, appropriate to the “Widow’s Mite.”

    The WWI Armistice echoed Eurpoean Martinmas traditions.

    From Wikipedia (for what that’s worth): “In many countries, including Germany, Martinmas celebrations begin at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month. Bonfires are built, and children carry lanterns in the streets after dark, singing songs for which they are rewarded with candy.”

  6. “I’m old enough to remember when November 11 was “Armistice Day.”

    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.

  7. “Sadly correct. The last Doughboy, Frank Woodruff Buckles died last year at 110:”

    He will be voting next year in several blue states.

  8. “He will be voting next year in several blue states.”

    Here in Blue Illinois where the graveyards always vote Democrat, I imagine he is already registered to vote in ten Chicago precincts! 🙂

  9. Well, well, well. a Thomas C. Joyce from Buffalo, who I assume is the Thomas C. Joyce who teaches English Lit at Canisius, the Jesuit college located there, dropped by to unleash what I assume he thought was a clever stink bomb:

    “It is good to remember that war is good. There are many many wars in the Old Testament. When Jesus spoke of turning the other cheek, he meant as an individual in limited circumstances.

    God favored many wars up until the Gospels, and Revelation is the most honored book of all and it foretells furious war.

    We need namby pamby tree huggers to stop giving sermons and get back to the kind of slap in the face esthetics that General Patton preached.

    The left favors peace as part of their misunderstanding of Jesus Ministry. Jesus came to sow dissension, not to create a generation of sissies.

    Thanks for the old fashioned salute to War! Whether these are the “End Times” or not, a war on those who defile the Temple would be a very good fight to start.”

    Ah professor, I truly hope that you are not brain dead enough to be unable to distinguish celebrating war from honoring those men who risked their lives in service of our country. I know that you are an enthusiastic supporter of President Obama. How do you balance your Peace Now! sentiments with his foreign policy? Do feel free to drop by whenever you are not too busy with your teaching duties and spreading the True Faith of liberalism among your hapless charges.

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