Think about that for a moment, gentle reader. These are just those killed outright; there were more than 12 million wounded, many of them casualties of poison gas and other debilitating injuries rendering them incapable of working for the rest of their lives. If these presently united States were to have lost a similar percentage, we would have lost about 3-4 million men instead of 117,000 dead. Put another way, more people died in World War 1 than died in the Holocaust.
One can easily understand that the first reaction of the Allied nations was joy that the war was over and that the Allies had won, but many people objected to the celebration as being unfitting, given the tremendous loss of life and destruction. Edward Honey, an Englishman, apparently was the first to suggest that the best way to remember the War to end all Wars was a few minutes of silence, and in 1919, George the Fifth, KIng of the Commonwealth, proclaimed two minutes of silence starting at 11 am. This was the custom for many years in the Allied nations, the first minute being in remembrance of those who died, and the second was in remembrance of those that they left behind, the families of those who gave all.
That custom was observed for many years here in these presently united States, even after 'Armistice Day' was renamed 'Veteran's Day' by President Eisenhower after Korea and the second World War. Every school child was instructed in the meaning of Veterans Day, and on November 11th, at 11 am, we would all stand with our hands on our hearts, silent, for a minute in respect for those who had died in our wars. Today, however, schools do not teach respect for those who have fought for their country and I doubt that one child in a hundred understands the holiday or where it came from, children from military families perhaps excepted.
My own understanding has evolved somewhat from my childhood education, for I have learned much about the history of the First World War, and the webs of deceit and lies spun by governments on all sides in that conflict and those which have followed. I know that my country is not the same thing as my government, and I know that wars do not make nations, or men, great. Notwithstanding the horror, brutality and sheer waste of war, I know that there are times when one must fight. Those who die defending the ideals of our country deserve our respect, and remembrance.
So, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 2016, 98 years after the guns fell silent, and the killing stopped, I will stop whatever I am doing, will rise to my feet, and take one minute to silently remember and thank those men and women who died for the ideals that underpin this country. I will then take another minute to consider the poisonous fruit of warfare, the widows, orphans and destruction it leaves behind, and the perfidy of government, willing to kill and destroy for 'reasons of state' which often turn out to be support for crony merchantilism or fanaticism.
Yet as I do these things, I will also recognize that there are indeed just wars, times when the only acceptable response to an act of overt aggression is to respond with overwhelming force to destroy your attacker. That as bad as wars are, there are worse things, one of them being submission to tyranny. In that vein, and with the memory of those who have borne arms to defend the cause of Liberty in mind, I give you Lieutenant Colonel McCrae's iconic poem:
In Flanders fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
I invite you, gentle reader, to join me this coming Friday, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 2016, to rise and silently reflect upon the costs of war and the bravery of those who fight them. And then, I invite you to consider the following two questions:
What price am *I* willing to pay to stand up for and restore Liberty?
Will *I* hold the torch of Freedom high, or will I watch it be smothered?
With gratitude to those who have served our country and held true to the ideals for which it stands, and with regard to those who serve the Light,
(edited on 11/10/2016)