This year, the 93rd annual remembrance of Veterans Day falls on November 11th, 2011, a date otherwise written as 11/11/11. The recurring elevens are more than historically correct; they are poignant. They mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns of World War I fell silent, for that was the moment that the war ended.
Ninety-three years ago, World War I was called “the war to end all wars.” But those who’d coined that phrase had no way of knowing that WWI was but the prelude of many wars to follow. To this day, mankind has not learned to solve his problems with reason rather than violence. To this day, people still try to rob us of our inalienable freedoms; to protect those freedoms and the freedoms of others, we still march into war. We still lose and mourn loved ones fallen in the armed services. Leaving their indelible marks upon us all, each war is commemorated by its own mottos, music, and memories.
Some of the World War I’s mottos were, “40 and Eight” (40 men and eight horses to a boxcar), “Over the Top” (a reference to trench warfare), and “The Yanks are Coming.” These mottos have all but passed into time. But like certain scents, music has the power to transport us back in time, recalling memories as sharp as the day they were made. Some of the music from World War I that has endured is George Cohan’s “Over There” as well as tunes from the 1917 musical production, “Yip Yip Yaphank.”
Today, the veterans of World War II are rapidly following in the footsteps of their First World War comrades in arms. We will be followed by those who fought bravely in the Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraqi wars.
America is undergoing dramatic change in the new millennium; our nation’s glorious past is fading into the pages of an ancient history book. Veterans Day, therefore, should be a time for reflection, a time for our nation to determine the direction it wants to take going forward. The price of our freedom has been paid for in the blood, sweat, and tears of the forefathers that established this great new nation in 1776, and in that of those who followed.
As I reflect upon the past, I would like to share a poem written by an unknown author. May it stir the conscience of our readers as they reflect upon this Veterans Day 2011.
A Soldier Died Today
He’s getting old and paunchy
and his hair is falling fast.
As he sits around the Legion
telling stories of the past.
Of a war that he once fought in
and the deeds that he had done
in his exploits with his buddies.
They were heroes, every one.
And sometimes, to his neighbors,
his tales became a joke.
While his buddies listened quietly,
for they knew of whence he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer,
for he has passed away.
And the world’s a little poorer,
For a soldier died today.
He won’t be mourned by many,
just his family and his wife.
For he lived a very ordinary
quiet sort of life.
He held a job and raised a family,
going quietly on his way.
And the world won’t note his passing,
Though a soldier died today.
When the politicians leave this earth
their bodies lie in state,
while thousands note their passing
and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their life stories
from the time when they were young.
While the passing of a soldier
goes unnoticed and unsung.
Is the greatest contribution
to the welfare of our land,
to one who breaks his promise
and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow,
who in times of war and strife,
goes off to serve his country
and offers up his life?
The politician’s stipend
and the style in which he lives
are often disproportionate
to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier
who offers up his all
is paid off with a medal
and perhaps a pension small.
It is not the politician,
with his compromise and ploys,
who won for us that freedom
our country now enjoys.
If you find yourself in danger
with your enemies at hand,
would you really want some cop-out
with his ever waffling stand?
Or would you want a soldier
on whom you can depend?
Just a common soldier
who would fight until the end?
He was just a common soldier,
and his ranks are growing thin.
But his presence should remind us
we may need his likes again.
For when countries are in conflict,
we find the soldiers part
is to clean up all the troubles
that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor
while he’s here to hear the praise,
then at least let’s give him homage
at the ending of his days.
Perhaps a simple headline
in the papers that might say,
“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING
A SOLDIER DIED TODAY!”