As we pause (here in America) once again, for Memorial Day, tomorrow — I whole-heartedly thank all who served our nation, and have passed on. At right is one of my family of origin’s many contributions to that legacy.
Each and every one of the enlisted deserve our honor, our gratitude and our enduring respect.
However, it is also incumbent on each of us as voters — as stewards, if you will — of these lives, to think clearly before we commit our troops — sons and daughters, brothers, sisters and cousins — to a cause that may take life or limb.
And so, with a bellicose reality TV faux-tycoon (some would call a fascist) angling to lead this nation, we should all keep in mind what a then 20 year-old soldier had scribbled in pencil, and left in his mess kit, shortly before his own death — in the trenches of World War I France — in October of 1915:
When you see millions of the mouth-less dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not do so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, ‘They are dead.’ Then add thereto,
‘Yet many a better one has died before.’
Then, scanning all the o’ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.
— Charles Hamilton Sorley (1915)
My grandfather (with only an 8th grade formal education) returned strong, hale and whole, from the “great war” — to live on. . . to see another seven decades of peace and prosperity — to work in the mines, marry the love of his life, run a mountain Post Office, see his fine children grow into late middle age, and adore all of his many, many grandchildren (and by the time of his own peaceful passing, see at least a few of his now many many great-grandchildren). Not so, this other Charles (as quoted above).
And so — I do give honor, respect and gratitude to those who fell, in the causes of our nation. I just ask that we all be very careful about which causes we choose, henceforth.
Do go to truly love one another. And fittingly, on this Sunday, I see the leaders of France and Germany are honoring their fallen — on the 100th Anniversary of the end of the Battle of Verdun — the longest, and one of the most costly battles of WW I — with a call for all of us (in the EU and the US) to be more open: to open our borders, to peoples fleeing oppression. . . . That is freedom’s. . . beacon for all. Pax tecum. . . .