Memorial Day, 2008
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.