A Thought for Veteran’s Day

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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.



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  1. Today is Armistice Day. After the Second World War the commemoration was moved to the nearest Sunday and called Remembrance Sunday, and Catholic churches normally make their principal Mass a Requiem. In the last twenty years, following a campaign by the Royal British Legion, Armistice Day is also celebrated, whether it falls before or after the Sunday. Yesterday I was in Oxford for the Solemn Requiem Mass at the Oratory, and very impressive it was too. Before that there was the civic ceremony at the war memorial in St Giles’s. This has unfortunately been hi-jacked by the forces of political correctness. There was little reference to the two world wars, but much was made of the Holocaust, the right to “peaceful protest”, an end to “discrimination” and oppression, and so on and so forth. On the Saturday evening there is a “Festival of Remembrance” in the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of HM the Queen. I watched this as a boy, and it was a solemn and dignified occasion. Latterly it has degenerated into a tacky pop concert (what is it about popular “culture” that degrades and pollutes everything it comes into contact with?)

    Every year some trendy cleric comes out of the woodwork to complain about the veterans’ favourite hymns, ‘O Valiant Hearts’ and ‘I Vow to Thee, my Country’ on the grounds that they are jingoistic and glorify war. I lost no relatives in the two world wars (despite the fact that my grandfather served on the Western Front throughout the Great War and I had an uncle who flew with Bomber Command in the Second), but I want to remember those from Britain and the Commonwealth who paid the ultimate price. I don’t want lectures on “equality and diversity”. I hope to God that the USA doesn’t go down this road. I appreciate the articles on this site about American achievements on the battlefield, despite the fact that some of them were won at my country’s expense!

  2. “I hope to God that the USA doesn’t go down this road. I appreciate the articles on this site about American achievements on the battlefield, despite the fact that some of them were won at my country’s expense!”

    Your generosity of spirit is appreciated John. We have similar clerics over here. I think at bottom most of them simply would never dream of putting their own precious hides at risk for anything and thus they attack better men than themselves in the guise of being anti-war, the pro-cowardice flag most of them really flying having limited appeal. John Stuart Mill had their number long ago:

    “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.”

  3. As today is Veterans Day, the banks, schools and government were closed. Nobody else – just like the now-maligned Columbus Day.

    I will go off on a brief tangent – I discovered that I have relatives in the town I live in that I have never met. They are on my mother’s side, as they share the same last name as my mom’s maiden name. As I did some additional research, I found out that there are over 3,000 people in the United Kingdom alone with my mom’s maiden name. A cousin of mine told me that we all are descended from some 14th century Scot Highlander and the clan is spread out over the entire Anglosphere – the UK (one is an Episcopal minister in Edinburgh), the US, Canada (one was an Orthodox priest in Vancouver), New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. They fought for the US and the UK in the Pacific Theater in World War 2.

    This caught my interest: http://www.warbirdforum.com/mcluckie.htm

    War will always be part of the human condition until the Second Coming. Clausewitz put it best, and I paraphrase – War is an extension of politics.

  4. this is late, but – Veterans’ Day is Independence Day for Poland. November 11, 1918 is when Poland ceased to be partitioned. There was the subsequent Greater Poland uprising which drove the Germans out, who refused to leave at first. Then there was the Polish-Soviet War and the Miracle of the Vistula.

    No wonder Poland suffered such a terrible fate in 1939 that lasted for 50 years.

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