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an old photograph of a trench with board sides in World War One

On Veterans Day, More than Remembering

Colin Fields

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  • Theresa Robberstad

    Thank you for this timely reminder, which inspired me to make a two-hour learning session for my 18-year old Norwegian students of English. We first read five “war poems” (two by Rupert Brooke, two by Wilfred Owen, Sandburg’s “Grass”) before reading your beautiful article about Chris Farlekas. Our final meeting was with the Dropkick Murphy's’ “No Man’s Land,” a punch in the solar plexus (and the heart). Thank you Bruderhoff. You people are amazing as you wisely, humbly and BEAUTIFULLY point out the narrow path. Your witness leads to opportunities and conversions that you cannot possibly imagine, such as this learning session in a classroom in western Norway on a gray day in November. “A pulse in the eternal mind” beats on.

  • Kevin Cushing

    Days like Veterans Day and Memorial Day should be Times of prayer and serious reflection on the evils of war, not flag waving and singing patriotic songs

In Great Britain, it’s called Remembrance Day. There will be two minutes of silence at 11:00 and wreaths of poppies will surround the Cenotaph. Around the world, the ceremonies may differ, but they go back to one day: On November 11, 1918, Germany formally surrendered, and thousands of exhausted, hungry, battle-haunted veterans returned home – if home was still there. Photos from that era reflect a mix of relief, jubilation, and the blank stares of shell shock. They also show how very young were the great fighting forces of the Great War, on all sides of the conflict.

A century after “the war to end all wars,” and after all the wars since that it failed to end, shouldn’t we be doing more than remembering? It’s a question songwriter Eric Bogle asks in “No Man’s Land.” Ultimately, he’s not asking young Willie McBride, or rather, his headstone, to answer his question. He’s asking us:

And I can't help but wonder now, Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you the cause?
Did you really believe them that this war would end wars?
Well, the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame -
The killing, and dying - it was all done in vain,
For, Willie McBride, it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.

This Veterans Day, listen to Bogle’s song, as sung by Celtic-American punk rock band Dropkick Murphys.

a young soldier in WWI; watch the video The Green Fields of France

 

a photograph of a young soldier of World War One Lieutenant William Hamo Vernon, died October 7, 1916, the Battle of the Somme Image from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
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