Saturday, November 10, 2007

Lest We Forget

An extra post from Jacqueline

For those of you who check in on a Sunday, or who come back for another look at the blog, I'm taking the liberty of posting twice this week, because I couldn't let today go by. It was only a month ago that I walked the battlefields of The Somme in France, so the anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, that we now know as Veteran's Day here in the USA, is not only a day I never let pass without thinking of those lost to war and those still stuck in it - military or civilian - but thoughts of the war to end all wars are still fresh in my mind.

Two days ago I was sent the following in an email. It originated in Canada, probably from the Royal Canadian Legion, though it could just as well have been from here in America, from Britain, Australia, New Zealand ... or any country with troops on the ground somewhere in the world away from home. No matter what your political beliefs, your position on peace and war, or who is right and wrong, I'm copying it here for you today - Veteran's Day, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, whatever it's called in your country:

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent High School graduate; He was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, And has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.

He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm Howitzer.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home, because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.

He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient.

He has two sets of fatigues: He washes one and wears the other.

He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.

He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.

If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.

He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humour in it all.

He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking.

In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.

Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls them to do so.

As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot..

A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.


  1. Wow. What a brilliant post, Jacqueline. I'd been thinking about Armistice Day yesterday. Thanks for captioning my feelings.

    Lest We Forget.

    I remember 1982, my first year in the Air Force. A small group of us in uniform were sent to form an honour guard at the memorial in the big Park in Newcastle. We were given some free time afterwards by the CO and packed off to the local RSL club (Returned Servicemens League) where the old vets cheerfully bought us drinks. The old boys mixing with the newly minted plebs. I got many comments along the lines of "well, we never had Waffies (WRAAF - Women's Royal Australian Airforce) that looked as good as you back in the old days, WWII, etc." Strangely enough, I felt a real warm and fuzzy feeling that day, as if I was giving something back to a proud 'digger' tradition that dates back to WWI.

    So here's a raised Pint to the old boys, the ladies who served, and those who follow in their footsteps around the world today, and to those who still watch over us from the other side.

    Blessed be,

  2. from Jacqueline

    I would have put money on you being the first comment on my extra post today, Marianne. Thank you for sharing your memories, and your thoughts.

  3. What a fitting post, since I just finished reading the obits of the war dead in the LA Times this morning. You passion is an inspiration, Our J.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Thanks for your comment, Patty - I never forget, and always wear a poppy in my lapel on November 11th. I was reading about a young man from a small town close to where my parents live - he and his twin were both deployed to Iraq, and when his brother was seriously wounded, they brought him in immediately. The young man sat with his brother for ten hours, holding his hand until he died, and talking to their parents via 'phone, so that they could be with him too. The dead man's name has been added to the town war memorial. Just breaks your heart.

  5. What a beautiful, heartfelt post.

    Bittersweet poetry.

    Beats the hell out of politican's speeches.

  6. God, the stories are so heartwrenching. I'm so sorry for that young man who lost his life in Iraq, but to have his twin so near and to hear his family in his last hours speaks so much of the technical progress this world has made. Too many before him have died alone on battlefields in past conflicts, with family never knowing what happened. I'm so glad this chap had comfort at the end.

    Sorry, eyes misting up again.

    I read the obits now and then when I find them, and sometimes the stories of soldiers lives in combat, and never fail to be moved by their vibrant lives and often needless death. Sigh.

    Thanks, Our J. for sharing. I wish the rest of the country understood better. I shared your post with two other lists I'm on, and got a few heartfelt reactions. One from a woman who I'm close to, whose son is considering signing up next year. She appreciated your words very much.

    Oh, and I subscribe to Naked Authors, so your post came to directly to my inbox this morning - which is strange 'cause it usually takes two to three days for the new NA post to arrive. By that stage, I've already gone to the site and read the new post for myself. :-D

    Bests, you guys,

  7. Another November 11 and another glass of port to toast a departed friend who lived through the WWI trenches. He would always drink a quiet glass of port today...

  8. from Jacqueline

    Thanks, all, for sharing your comments - I wasn't sure who might be checking in today, and glad to know that a few truths about young men and women serving far from home have touched you all.

  9. I toast John, the husband of a friend.

    Following ROTC (Reserve Officer's Training Corps) paying his way through college, he found himself a Second Lieutenant in Vietnam. Six months later he went home a Captain, replete with medals including the Silver Star, and shrapnel in his eye.

    Following a marriage with children, a divorce, and a marriage to the love of his life, he also found himself with another legacy of Vietnam. Agent Orange derived cancer.

    After a brief struggle, a terribly truncated marriage that had just begun, he left a widow devasted both emotionally and financially.

    Still, he loved his Bobbie Anne, and for that precious gift more than anything, he's a hero.

  10. Oh, Jeff, thank you for sharing this story about your friend's husband. The legacy of war extends far into the future, to the next generation and beyond.

  11. A bit late, but wanted to say how much I appreciated your lovely post....

  12. I'm sorry I missed this yesterday.

    I particularly loved the bit about the National Anthem. There have been so many times I've wanted to square away some idiot jabbering away, hands in pockets, his shoulders slouched in disrespect.

    But of course I didn't. If his father didn't instill it in him, it's too late for a stranger.

  13. Thank you, Rae and David, for your comments. David one of the things that most impressed me, a few years ago during my first visit to Ypres, was that during the playing of the Last Post at the Menin Gate - a daily ritual, along with remembrance of those who died on that particular day in the Great War - there were a lot of teens in the crowd. Every single one of them bowed their head in respect and joined in as we all spoke the words together:

    "They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old.
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,