11 November 2013 by Published in: General musings 3 comments

As the clocks tolled to mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns fell silent. The Great War–the War to End All Wars, as it was known–had ended. The butcher’s bill had come due. 16 million were dead and another 20 million wounded. And for what? A few yards of soil in France? It’s a shame that it was not truly the War to End All Wars. Much worse ghastliness lay ahead, just two decades later.

Lt. Wilfred Owen, a British soldier/poet, who was killed in action a scant few days before the armistice took effect, left this moving elegy behind:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

As we move toward the centennial of World War I, I thought it important to remember the horrifying human toll of the conflict, which is the root of the Veterans’ Day that we commemorate today.

And to each and every one of you who served, I can merely offer a thank you, offered with profound and humble gratitude for your sacrifice. I offer a special thank you today to my uncle, Sgt. Morton L. Wittenberg, U.S. Army Air Corps, World War II, my brother-in-law, SSGT Joseph Pacitto, USMC, Desert Storm, my father-in-law, Lt. Adam Skilken, U.S. Navy, Cold War, and my dear friends, Lt. Clark B. Hall, USMC, Vietnam, Sgt. Ted Alexander, USMC, Vietnam, Maj. Mike Nugent, US Army, Cold War, Col. Wade Sokolosky, U.S. Army, the War Against Terror, Capt./Sgt. Mike Phipps, U.S. Army, Iraq, Capt. Craig Swain, U.S. Army, Cold War and beyond, Sgt. Angela Clemens, US Air Force, Cold War and beyond, and Capt. Stuart Jones, US Navy, Cold War and beyond, and any of my other friends whom I have inadvertently left off of this list–it’s not intentional–for all of your service and sacrifices. Today, it’s my turn to salute you.

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Comments

  1. Mike Peters
    Tue 12th Nov 2013 at 11:12 am

    Eric,

    As is my custom, yesterday I wore the dog tags of my father, a veteran of Korea and Viet Nam. Thanks Dad! And thank you to all who wear or have worn the military uniform.

    Mike Peters

  2. Chris Evans
    Tue 12th Nov 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I also like the stanza from ‘For the Fallen’ Laurence Binyon’s WWI poem:

    “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
    We will remember them.”

    Chris

  3. Mike Fitzpatrick
    Tue 12th Nov 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Eric,
    That was very touching and thoughtful!!…….and don’t forget that venerable WWII veteran Edwin C. Bearss, USMC!!

    Mike

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