|Anno Domini: A salute to those who watch over us|
|November 10, 2011 Jerry Purvis|
It seems like a hundred years ago, but it was 1986. Dr. Allen Shepherd, my history professor at Chadron State (and an excellent person), was leading us on a whirlwind tour of the eastern seaboard and Canada.
Several humorous anecdotes came out of that trip. In a time before Internet commerce really opened up, the good doctor spent an entire day riding the subway around Montreal, in search of a muffler for his 1951 Mercedes.
It would have been easy to track our itinerary, as a couple of the guys left behind a wide trail of empty beer cans as we headed north. To say the least, when Null and Void got back from a Yankees game, they were both what the Scots would call “stocious” – the same as for much of the trip.
Our first major stop was in Washington, D.C. Just as an aside, once you get a few blocks away from the Mall and our nation’s historic and governmental buildings, you’re no longer in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
We toured all the “usual” sites, like Ford’s Theater, the Smithsonian, the White House and Congress. One of our group even fell asleep in Congresswoman Virginia Smith’s office … while she was talking with us.
But what left the most indelible impression on me was a place located across the Potomac River in Virginia – Robert E. Lee’s former estate – called Arlington.
The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns is something every American citizen should witness firsthand at least once. These guards, representing every branch of the military, keep their watchful posts day and night throughout the year and every year since the tomb was completed in 1932.
These sentries are carrying out a charge of honor. Even after the Arlington National Cemetery closes to the public at night, the formal ceremony continues. They’re showing respect for the honored dead, symbolic of all unaccounted for American combat dead.
Inside the marble tomb are the remains of soldiers from World Wars I and II and Korea. The inscription reads, “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier know but to God.”
In 2003, Hurricane Isabel skirted up the east coast, downing thousands of trees. There were power outages, blocked roads and flooding all around Washington. Government agencies closed.
The Regimental Commander of the U.S. Third Infantry sent word to the nighttime Sentry Detail at Arlington to secure the post and seek shelter from the high winds, to ensure their personal safety.
The sentries disobeyed the order. Through driving rain and high winds, they stood watch over the Tomb of the Unknowns. One of them said he wasn’t going to be known as the idiot who couldn’t stand some wind and rain here at home while his brothers in arms were risking their lives in the Middle East.
Tomorrow, for the 93nd year, we set aside Veterans Day to honor those who have served in the Armed Forces. November 11 is more than just the day we signed the armistice to end World War I. It’s a day to honor all those who serve … and those who gave their lives in defense of freedom.
I’ve used this quote many times before, but I can’t write it any better than George Orwell: “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence upon those who would do us harm.”
That was a whole different attitude than what I witnessed in the 1960s. The clueless children of generation hippie gave us cockamamie bumper sticker philosophy like “Give Peace a Chance” and “War is Not the Answer.” Such dime store wisdom was usually found on the back end of a VW bus that belched pollution and whose engine sounded like a sewing machine.
Agreed, war is always a ghastly business. Only an insane person would consider it as a first option. Problem is – the world is full of insane people, tin-pot dictators, mullahs, and other spiral-eyed crazies like that Akmadinnerjacket person. A strong military is necessary to keep the bad actors off the world stage. Ronald Reagan had the correct approach: peace through superior firepower.
That’s what Veterans Day is all about. It’s taking the time to thank those who served, those who went wherever they were called by their Uncle Sam. They fought, bled and died for a cause greater than themselves, to preserve what President Lincoln called the last, best hope for mankind.
From the buck privates to the generals, in every rank in every military branch, America enjoys freedom because of our veterans and those who continue to serve.
The November before my trip up the east coast, President Reagan spoke at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. He said there was a special sadness that accompanies the death of a serviceman because what they gave is beyond our power to repay. “And so, when a serviceman dies, it’s a tear in the fabric, a break in the whole, and all we can do is remember.”
So I’ll spend this day remembering, with many thanks from the grateful nation of Jerry.
I couldn’t think of a better way to wrap this up than to share some words written by the late Father Denis O’Brien, who was a Marine Corps Chaplain. “It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”