Today is Veterans’ Day.
In 2004 we were on Gibralter on November 11. At 11:11 our guide stopped everything and we stood in silence for two minutes.
The First World War, the horrible War To End All Wars, came to an end at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. It slaughtered about half of the young male population of England, and in honor of their sacrifice on this date every year, the entire country comes to a halt at 11:11.
I think it’s a beautiful gesture, and a wonderful way to honor those who gave their lives for our country as well as those who gave a portion of their lives.
I know too many of them. My college roommate and best man Mike Baldwin suffered the effects of Agent Orange from his time in Viet Nam. Another college roommate, Jerry Smith, stepped on a land mine there. He survived, but at what cost?
My father, Dan Moser, and my father-in-law, Eugene Butler, both were veterans. They survived World War II, and lived long and useful lives. Eventually.
My chosen son Derek, who graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, was at NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain on Nine-Eleven. He talked with all the honchos - when he could locate them - and conveyed the order to ground all commercial domestic flights. When he left the Navy and moved back to Illinois, my blood pressure went down.
And countless other friends and acquaintances served in the military.
I don’t think we can minimize the effects of military experience on those who served and those around them. Eugene came home unable to sleep for weeks. Only with the help of those who truly loved him was he able to assimilate back into society.
Today at 11:11, I urge all of you to stop what you’re doing and observe a minute of silence. Think about the sacrifices of those heroes who serve - and served - our country.
And please ponder the following poem by Wilfred Owen, who was killed seven days before the Armistice that ended that awful War To End All Wars. The Latin, by the way, means "How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country.”
Dulce et Decorum est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. --
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams before my helpless sight
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin,
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs
Bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
As always, please feel free to comment below.