A few years ago I clipped out a cartoon – For Better or for Worse. It is a little girl and her mother walking down the sidewalk and a veteran is selling poppies.
The little girl asks, “Why are people selling poppies today, Mom?”
As the mother is pinning a poppy to the child’s lapel, she explains, “Poppies are a symbol. Something to make us remember. A man called John McCrae wrote a beautiful poem about the poppies that grew in Flanders Fields. Also in the fields were crosses, marking the graves of soldiers who died fighting the war.”
The child looks down at the poppy on her lapel and asks, “Why do I hafta wear a poppy? I’m not really sure what war is!”
To which the mother replies. “I know. And that, I think, is the best reason of all.”
Unfortunately, because of the recent turn of events, our young people can no longer say that.
September 11, 2001 was an attack on America. It was also a wake up call to Americans. A wake up call for us to value life as never before. A wake up call for us to appreciate our freedom anew. A wake up call for us to honor our soldiers, past and present. A wake up call for us to not take things for granted. A wake up call for us to love our neighbor – no matter what color, what age, what size, what condition. And to realize our neighbor is global. A wake up call to recognize the infinite worth and value of each individual.
I was patriotic long before September 11. I was a card carrying, pin wearing, flag waving American long before it became back in fashion to be so. So now am I even more so? No. But I am very thankful that we, as a corporate body, have gone back to our roots. And certainly going back to our roots is to honor our history. A people who forget – or treat lightly – a great past cannot have a great future. History records eighty (80) civilizations that have fallen, with an average of 200 years as the existence of any nation. I have seen several fall in my lifetime, the USSR being the largest. America is not exempt. Thus our wake-up call to change. And what could be a more appropriate way than to show honor to our veterans.
At Friday’s Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, Jack Smith poignantly reminded us that it is the soldier who gave us freedom of speech – even though it has been abused. It is the soldier who has given us freedom of the press – even though it has been taken to extremes. It is the soldier who has allowed us the freedom to fly the flag – or to burn it in protest. It is the soldier who has given us peace in the past, and it is the soldier who will restore peace and enact justice in the present.
As a child I learned Emma Lazarus poem which is inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
A mighty woman with a torch,... cries she with silent lips,
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free.
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me.
I life my lamp beside the golden door.”
With the exception of the American Indian, all of us have our roots in other soil. We are all children of immigrants from oppressed countries who came to this land in search of freedom. And it is the soldier who won us this freedom.
According to a letter in Ann Landers, in May, 2001, our WW II vets are passing away at the alarming rate of 1,000 per day. The man who gave this statistic also forwarded a poem honoring veterans. It does not give the author’s name. Being a writer myself, it saddens me to see something which God has gifted another to write and he/she not be given credit for it.
I am going to read this poem to you, and, although you may not be able to see the tears in my eye, you will be able to hear the tears in my voice. Although I have practiced reading this poem aloud several times, my voice chokes. I say this, not to apologize, but to clarify. When your heart stirs, a lump catches in your throat or tears well within the eyes, it is a noble emotion. Feel it, embrace it. It shows that you are human.
The poem is entitled, JUST A COMMON SOLDIER
He was getting old and paunchy, and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion telling stories of his past.
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies – they were heroes, every one.
And though sometimes to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
But we’ll hear his tales no longer, for old Bill has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
He was just a common soldier, and his ranks are growing thin.
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
Is to clean up all the troubles that others often start.
If we cannot give him honor, while he’s around to hear our praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage, at the ending of his days.
Perhaps a simple notice in a paper that would say,
“Our Country is in mourning, cause a Soldier passed away”.
Thank you, veterans, for all you have done. God Bless you. And God Bless America.