Thank you for your service.
An American soldier follows orders that are conceived from mission plans which in turn come from strategies devised to achieve the will of the population of our democratic republic. We all must shoulder the responsibility for the decisions that make young people soldiers, but only the soldiers shoulder the risks when they are put into harms way.
Veteran’s day was grafted as an American observance onto Armistice day following World War Two. Armistice Day marks the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month as that is the time (Paris time) that the armistice marking the end of World War One (The War to End All Wars) took effect. Veterans day is observed on the first Monday after Armistice Day as it is always better to do things with the day off work.
Because of its origins in the international day of celebrating the end of World War One it is not too surprising that one poem that gets trotted out more than most for this ocation was written by a British poet who died on 23 April 1915 en route to Gallipoli at the height of World War One.
If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
“The soldier” by Rupert Chawner Brooke
Brooke would die aboard a ship; his body wrecked by dysentery and sepsis. There was no “Rich Earth” or “Flowers to Love” where he died.
Brooke’s close friend William Denis Browne attended his death. William was a British composer and pianist who knew of Rupert’s desire to be buried in the earth. William took Rupert’s body ashore at Skyros, and had him buried in an Olive grove there. William would die at Gallipoli on June 4th.
Today thousands of veterans have returned home from conflicts old and new. Today many more of them return home “only” wounded. Today the American soldier is more likely to take his own life than to have been killed in conflict with an enemy.
Too often when two veterans meet for the first time the only conversation they have is: “Where and for how long?” Though this might be more pronounced amongst former frontline grunts the veteran who simply affixed missiles to a drone in some distant base will also see something in the fleeting distance as if part of their poetry was washed away with blood.
Ironically we remember only Rupert’s death wishes as they relate to his being a soldier. It is as if we have heard his poem a hundred times, and only asked: “Where and for how long?” Rupert may have died before his thirtieth birthday, but he lived his life more fully in that time than could be captured in describing his few short months in the Royal Navy.
O dear my loves, O faithless, once again
This one last gift I give: that after men
Shall know, and later lovers, far-removed,
Praise you, "All these were lovely"; say, "He loved."
from “The Great Lover” by Rupert Chawner Brooke
On occasions like today it is a great pleasure to say “Thank you for your service” to our veterans. However, on every day it is a greater pleasure to be able to say “Welcome Home!”, and when asked to remember those who have not made it home I would rather say “He (or She) Loved!”