Remembrance Day 2011 – Lest We Forget

imageToday is Remembrance Day here in Canada, Australia, the UK, and elsewhere across the globe. Coinciding with Remembrance Day, our American cousins mark this day as Veterans Day.

Remembrance Day brings with it a sober opportunity to reflect on the courage and nobility of those who have served, in the past, or who do so presently, to protect the foundations of our democracies. We know only too well the high price those that we remember today paid in order to protect the freedoms we cherish.

I’m forever grateful for their selflessness, and their generosity of spirit.

Freedom isn’t free.

image

Canadians – homeward bound from Afghanistan.

Sadly though, as a society we seem to lack the observation and analytical skills necessary to establish a critical perspective on the true horrors, and the real outcome, of war.

Mark Twain, who was fiercely critical not only of racism and injustice, addressed  the horrors of war in his short story, The War Prayer, written at the time of the Philippine-American War.

The War Prayer – Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.

It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!

Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

“God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!”

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

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16 Comments

Filed under Opinion, Personal Perspective

16 responses to “Remembrance Day 2011 – Lest We Forget

  1. Jerry Chance

    “It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said”……………

    No, he clearly was not a lunatic because there was every sense in what he said! Once again it reflects the futility of war.

    Love, Light and Peace

  2. thank you from a former marine

    • Hey Kenneth,

      Semper Fi my friend. And, thank you accepting the call to duty. You can be proud of the fact that you’re one of the few who’ve made a difference.

      Best,

      Bill

  3. Hi Bill,
    I tip my hat to all Canadian and American Vets that gave their lives or fought for our countries.
    The History Channel has run an amazing 3 day documentary on the Vietnam war and it was sad what those young people went through for a country that didn’t support them, and often spat on them when they returned. One fact was that the average US troop experienced 10 days of actual combat per year during the 2nd world war, in Vietnam it was 240 days per year. And people used to say these guys just weren’t tough enough!
    While I opposed the war in Vietnam as well as Iraq, I deeply appreciate the service of our young people, regardless of my opinion of the “leaders” who sent them into harms way.
    Mark

    • Hi Mark,

      Like you, I could not support the politics of the war in Viet Nam, or the war in Iraq. But, like you, I was adamant, and continue to be so, in my support of the troops.

      That’s an interesting stat re: combat time. I suspect it’s something most are unfamiliar with. It puts a whole new perspective on “sacrifice” and “commitment.”

      Have a terrific weekend, my friend.

      Bill

  4. Bob Slyker

    “There is no greater love than this: that a person would lay down his life for the sake of his friends.”
    -Aramaic Bible

    Eternal rest, grant unto them (him/her)
    and let perpetual light shine upon them (him/her).
    May the souls of the faithful departed,
    through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
    Amen.
    -Roman Catholic

    Best,

    Bob

    • Hi Bob,

      It never fails to amaze me when I hear a service member refer to the commitment of laying it all on the line for his/her fellows. It’s an astonishing perspective, and speaks to true courage.

      “Eternal rest, grant unto them (him/her) …………..” As an ex alter boy who assisted at numerous funerals, (haven’t though of that in years), I’m familiar with the reference, and I concur.

      As always, your comment adds an important layer. Thank you.

      Best,

      Bill

  5. Mal

    Hey Bill,
    Being brought up in a service family, I understand and respect the sacrifice of our military people. At the moment, there are calls from the Australian people to bring our troops home from Afghanistan, due to the Afghani army apparently being infiltrated by Taliban and murdering and injuring our soldiers. My thoughts were particularly with them on this special day, it must be hard not knowing who friend or foe really is.
    Mal

    • Hey Mal,

      I recall that recent traumatic event involving Aussie troops. What a terrifying ordeal.

      After 9 years and 157 combat deaths, Canadian troops pulled out of Afghanistan – except for 700 “trainers” – one of whom was killed this past week.

      Most Canadians (because of our similarities in culture and values), are fairly familiar with what’s on in Australia. So, I’ve been following the “time to get out of Afghanistan” movement. “Good on ya mate”, is all I can say. You sure have my support.

      Best,

      Bill

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  7. Hey Bill,

    Thanks for a great article Bill, I try to thank every veteran I see no matter what day of the year it is. Regardless whether they are Canadian or American Troops, they deserve our thanks and gratitude for their sacrifice.

    TeX

  8. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    I watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph in London live on TV on Sunday, as always, and, as always, found it intensely moving. I was very happy that the authorities here banned anyone showing disrespect by burning poppies as had been permitted in earlier years. I suppose this was to show our belief in freedom of expression. However, as with most freedoms those guys fought, and continue to fight, for, they need to be accompanied by responsibility. It’s the same with all protesters. By all means protest but, in doing so, do not prevent others going about their lawful business, or cause damage to property. In a democracy, use of violence weakens your argument.

    The remembrance service is dignified, not celebratory or triumphalist. It marks the respect we have for those who make the ultimate sacrifice, regardless of politics or personal beliefs.

    Kind regards
    John

    • Hi John,

      Burning Poppies?? My only response – nuclear anger!!

      As for the rest of your comment – it encapsulates my personal feelings, perfectly.

      I might have to hire you to not only do my thinking for me (since, in this instance you have done a perfect job), but, the rest of the job as well. 🙂

      Best,

      Bill

  9. John Bent

    Hi Bill,

    That would mean you’d not be thinking straight.

    Kind regards
    John (Bent)