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Paying respect to soldiers past and present on Armed Forces Day

Published on -5/23/2012, 9:30 AM

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Last Saturday was Armed Forces Day. What were the memories it fostered for you?

It could have been the Revolutionary War that won the freedoms we have cherished for many years.

It could have been the Civil War, which was fought over the issue of slavery.

It could have been the "war to end all wars," World War I.

Then, there was World War II, which stirred the title to the book by Tom Brokaw as "The Greatest Generation."

And it certainly brings to mind our two present wars.

It could bring to mind the cost of wars in lives. The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence paid a tremendous price for our freedom. Five were arrested by the British as traitors, 12 had their homes looted and burned by the enemy, 17 lost their fortunes, two lost sons in the Continental Army and nine fought and died during the Revolutionary War. Just think of the thousands of lives lost since that time.

What do some of our military commanders have to say? Gen. Douglas MacArthur made this comment in his famous farewell address before the U.S. Congress: "We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door."

The general of the Army in his address on Armistice Day, 1948, said, "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants."

I recently read a poem titled "A Poem Worth Reading" whose author was simply listed "Unknown." It was in a paper called Square and Compass. I believe you will find it well worth reading.

"He was getting old and paunchy

And his hair was falling fast,

And he sat around the Legion

Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in

And the deeds that he had done,

In his exploits with his buddies;

They were heroes, every one.

And tho' sometimes to his neighbors

His tales became a joke,

All his buddies listened quietly

For they knew where of he spoke.

But we'11 hear his tales no longer

For old Bob has passed away

And the world's a little poorer

For a Soldier died today.

He won't be mourned by many,

Just his children and his wife,

For he lived an ordinary

Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,

Going quietly on his way;

And the world won't note his passing

Tho' a Soldier died today

When the politicians leave this earth

Their bodies lie in state

While thousands note their passing

And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories

From the time that they were young

But the passing of a Soldier

Goes unnoticed and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution

To the welfare of our land

Someone who breaks his promise

And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow

Who in times of war and strife

Goes off to serve his country

And offers up his life?

The politician's stipend

And the style in which he lives,

Are often disproportionate

To the service he gives.

While the ordinary soldier

Who offered up his all

Is paid off with a medal

And perhaps a pension, small.

It is not the politicians

With their compromise and ploys

Who won for us the freedom

That our country now enjoys.

Should you find yourself in danger

With your enemies at hand,

Would you really want some cop out

With his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a soldier --

His home, his country, his kin,

Just a common soldier

Who would fight until the end?

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

We find the soldier's part

Is to clean up all the troubles

That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor

While he's here to hear the praise,

Then, at least let's give homage

At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simple headline,

In the paper that might say

Our country is in mourning,

A soldier died today."

Arris Johnson is a member of the Generations advisory committee.

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