Rants and Raves

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day, 2008

Note: Thursday before Memorial Day, I went to the local elder care facility to take pictures of a small celebration they had for vets living at the center, with a memorial for those who've died while resident there. I then went back to the newspaper office and wrote this, which appeared on the front page of the weekend edition.

AMVETS, Auxiliary host early memorial Day event

These in the days when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth's foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling
And took their wages and are dead.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood, and the earth's foundations stay;
When God abandoned, these defended,
And saved the sum of things for pay.

Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries (1914)
Alfred Edward Housman

When the roll was called most couldn't stand to answer their names, so they raised their hands. About half couldn't leave their rooms to come at all.

They are some of the local veterans of the Second World War and they spend their last days in the Sheyenne Care Center in Valley City. On Thursday afternoon, they were honored by the AMVETS and Auxiliary in advance of Memorial Day with coffee, donuts, small gifts and a speech on "The Soldiers Oath" by Valley City Commissioner and veteran Ken Everson.

The occasion was marked by the laying of a wreath in memory of all of the veterans who have died while living at the center.

This is the first such commemoration, and it's likely there won't be many more as their numbers grow fewer.

But while they are still with us, the AMVETS and Auxiliary help care for them, visit them on holidays and birthdays, and try to remind us that, when these veterans were young, they left the safest place in the world, to go to the most dangerous places in the world, and by doing so, saved the world.

Note: I was a bit concerned that the poem by Housman might be misconstrued, with the reference to "mercenaries," we'll see. It refers to German newspaper accounts of the battle of Ypres, where they refered to the English soldiers as "mercenaries." Housman was throwing it back in their face.


  • At 11:03 AM, Blogger Ted said…

    A moving tribute.
    Those vets are among the few survivors of what was perhaps our last justified war.
    Perhaps the best way to honor the ones who never came back is to make certain there's never another "police action" for some politrickster's fantasy or fancy; to make sure our next war is truly to defend our own national interests and ideals.

  • At 6:44 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    There was a time when I'd have agreed heartily with you there. Now I'm a bit more, what's the word?


    I'll have more to say later.

  • At 9:26 AM, Blogger Joseph Sixpack said…

    It is troubling that discussion over our current conflict has devolved into people truly believing (or perhaps just saying out of frustration) that we are fighting a war for (pick one or more of the following): profits for Haliburton, profits for oil companies, a modern-day Crusade due to an evangelical President, a war-mongering "neocon" agenda, the Jewish lobby, or several other similar perceived evils or bogeymen.

    Here's a possibility: Bush had the political capital to remove the Ba'ath regime, so he did it.

  • At 2:09 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    "Justified" is a tricky word there Ted. I'm not sure you could get everyone to agree on when war is justified. Or for that matter, what truly defends our own national interests and ideals.

    I would agree with Steve that things are a bit more nuanced. Especially when you consider that just because it's justified might not mean it's the best approach for our national interests. And maybe you could even come up with a situation where a war with someone would be in the nation's best interest even though they hadn't committed an act that easily justifies a military response. ( Not sure if I said that very well, but I hope everyone gets the idea. )

    To me it just seems you'll never really know because you'll never know what would have happened if other choices were made. You may have a good idea, but you'll never know.

    I feel like I'm starting to talk about known knowns...


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