Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the Eleventh Hour

. . . of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, The Great War, the War to End All Wars, stuttered to a conclusion. Armistice Day on November 11 was created to honor the veterans of that war.

In 1953, Armistice Day became Veterans Day in honor of all veterans .

They're back at the grocery store, just like on Memorial Day, nice old guys in their VFW caps, offering the little red poppies as reminders of those who died serving their country.

I shove a dollar in their jar and thank them. As I push the shopping cart out to my car, I wonder what they may have seen . . . what their wars were like. . .

My father served in Burma in WWII-- and he never talked much about it. He told us about his pet monkey. And he told us how the open Jeeps they drove had tall metal posts installed on the front bumpers -- a retrofitted necessity after several gruesome incidents involving piano wire stretched across narrow roads, just at neck height for a rider.

Have you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same--and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz--
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench--
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack--
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads--those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.

Siegfried Sassoon

(This is a re-post)
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Tammy said...

Thanks Vicki for reminding me. It's too easy to forget and take it all for granted. Never knowing or realizing what those that defend our country have went/go through.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki, I will have to write a post on my late father-in-law, who fought at the Battle of Metz during WW2. His memoir, which he dictated for my husband and daughter to compile and write, has a section about his experiences in the war.

Polly Iyer said...

Nice post, Vicki. Yes, we tend to forget. Thanks for the reminder.

Friko said...

Reposted and reposted, Sassoon’s words will never lose their urgency.