One song always captures the proper level of reflection on Memorial Day for me. It is a song written in 1976 by a Scottish-born songwriter Eric Bogle about a walk among the gravestones in a military cemetery in Flanders. In the lyrics the songwriter takes a moment to reflect on the short life a single soldierâ??s name on a grave stone.
The song is known as â??No Manâ??s Landâ? or â??Green Fields of Franceâ? focuses on the sacrifice of a Private William McBride, a 19-year-old soldier killed during World War I.
â??And I can’t help but wonder, now Willie McBride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you ‘The Cause? ‘
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and againâ?¦
The song can be seen as both an anti-war song and as a respectful warning for future generations.
There are many schools of thought on how to properly honor, remember and salute our nationâ??s fallen servicemen and women on Memorial Day weekend. Everyone should find the time like the aforementioned songwriter, and walk among the white stones of a national cemetery.
Take a moment to note the names on the markers. When did this service-person fall? Was it on a battlefield or did they go on to live a long life? Who was this person?
Imagine losing everything for your country. They did.
Memorial Day is not for those who served or serve, thatâ??s Veteranâ??s Day. It should focus on the 19-year old who sacrificed an entire lifetime for the person fighting next to them and our nation.
Coming from a military family and as a former soldier, it has always been important for me to encourage my children to experience the company of veterans. Each experience presents a lesson in history and patriotism that cannot be covered in a classroom.
Each year during Rolling Thunder I explain to my kids that the leather vests we see rumbling down the road are essentially a warriorâ??s mosaic, a colorful snapshot of a personâ??s military service.
We know the reasons they ride. We know the scars that many of them bear inside and out.We know the honor that resides amid the rumble of their engines.
We know the love of country that dwells within their hearts
The ceremonies of remembrance, regardless of scale or location should be attended.
We owe the brave fallen that.
It hurts to know how many things in life these men and women gave upâ?¦and it should.
We mourn them but we also owe it to them to honor their memory. They will never have time with family, rides on motorcycles, fishing trips, picnics or parades.
Politicians create wars, but they never fight them. Ask yourself how it must feel to a veteran of Iraq to see the cities fall after paying for each block, each hill and yard with the blood of his comrades.
It must be hard to see wars won then given away to appease political expediency.
I used to scoff at references to the Vietnam War in comparison to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Surely, we had learned from Vietnam, right? Now Iâ??m not so sure.
The English poet John Maxwell Edmonds is credited with the authorship of this famous inscription that nobly defines the lost dreams of any fallen warrior:
When you go home, tell them of us and say â?¦ For their tomorrow, we gave our today.
His verse is thought to have been inspired by the epitaph written by the Greek poet Simonides of Ceos, which honored the Spartans who fell at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC.
I share Mr. Bogleâ??s fear that there will always be more Private McBrides until we find a solution to â??man’s blind indifference to his fellow man.â?
Marshall Conner is a freelance writer with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.