November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

I remember the moment when it hit me that the casualty statistics of war were people. Of course, you know that. You know they are people. But somehow, the passage of time makes them into numbers. Numbers you are thankful for, but numbers just the same. Then, maybe it was that moment in the teenage years when you suddenly become aware of other people, I realized that every one of those numbers represented countless lives devastated because that number did not come home. Everyone of those numbers had a mother. A father. Many had siblings. Some, a wife. And others, kids. And beyond the human toll, every one of those numbers had a mind and heart that felt, loved, hated, dreamed, and feared. Countless ideas, poems, stories, plans, passions, and innovations were sacrificed to the ravening hunger of war. Even the people that survived, that did come home, came home changed, physically and/or mentally, rendering their lives completely different than they otherwise would have been.

I hate war. I know it is necessary for the preservation of freedoms and withstanding tyranny, but it is an awful thing. All these lives given, mostly to stop some power hungry leader from ruining things. Yet, in all its nastiness, war is a reminder of what matters most. To see men set off, willing (sometimes unwilling) to die for a greater good demands that we ourselves consider what is most precious to us. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) War calls to the finer things in us. Raises us above the pettiness that cannot help but bind us as we live life.

I love Rupert Brooke. The English soldier poet from World War I.

The Dead
Blow out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
   There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
   But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
   Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
   That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
   Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
   And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
   And we have come into our heritage.

And then, this poem that is so beautiful about soldiers dying in foreign lands

The Soldier

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.

So much is given. Given so my kids can play without fear. So I can do as I please, within the bounds of my reality and to the beat of my own conscience.

We can't always be life changing and meaningful. There is a lot of the day to day in living life. But what am I doing with the freedom that was purchased, at such a cost, for me? I hope it is not just being wasted. I hope the men who died for that freedom would not look on my life and think, in disbelief, "I died so you could do that?"

The final verse of The Star Spangled Banner...

O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

So thankful for the freemen who have stood between America and war's desolation. And those today, that are still protecting America.

1 comment:

Jolene Crites said...

This is a very beautiful, thoughtful reflection, Bethany. The subject is one that brings up such conflict in me. Thank you for your articulation of such a delicate matter.