Veteran's Day, 2006
Today, Veteran's Day, was once known as Armistice Day, since it originally memorialized the day of the armistice that ended the fighting during what was then known, oxymoronically, as the Great War. My friend EdWonk has a great post up at his place which includes one of my favorite poems about this war.
I want to turn to two great poets of that war, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Both men spoke so powerfully of the damage that war does to the soul. Sassoon and Owen met while Owen was in hospital for neurasthenia, or what was then called shell-shock. Sassoon survived the war, but sadly, Owen was killed leading his men at Ors on November 4, 1918-- just a week before the armistice was declared. His parents were informed of his death on Armistice Day.
I dreamed kind Jesus fouled the big-gun gears;
And caused a permanent stoppage in all bolts;
And buckled with a smile Mausers and Colts;
And rusted every bayonet with His tears.
And there were no more bombs, of ours or Theirs,
Not even an old flint-lock, not even a pikel.
But God was vexed, and gave all power to Michael;
And when I woke he'd seen to our repairs.
No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're 'longing to go out again,' —
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk.
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,—
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
God bless all those who have been willing to put their souls to the test in such a struggle. Remember and honor the men and women who have served in our military, both those who returned and those who sleep with their brothers and sisters beneath the fields which they bought with their blood. Pray for those who continue to serve at this moment, that they will return safe and whole to the arms of all who love them.