Fall has now produced its luxurious ‘Leaf Carpets’ for those who dwell in Little Egypt. As I walked the Campus of SIUC this morning I could not hope but notice the strong wind was removing the leaves at a more rapid rate than I had observed previously…this season. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.’ I heartily agree! I knew that it was Veterans Day and I thought that I would walk over to the flagpole and see if I could catch some of the Vigil that the ROTC conducts for 24 hours each Veterans Day. As I approached I saw a young woman walking up to the two soldiers who were standing with their heads bowed…in a silent vigil of reverence for all of our Veterans…both living and dead. She appeared to be speaking to the soldiers…of course, they did not answer…but I imagined that she was expressing her respect to them and for what they were doing…and for what they represented. When I approached the Vigil I expected to be impressed with the homage that the soldiers were performing…but I was overtaken by tears as I saw their bowed heads and dignified observance for their fellow soldiers. I saw how young that they were…and yet how mature and supporting of the great weight of responsibility that they had been asked to perform. These members of our military we’re about one thing…duty…respect…and honor. I hearkened back to my high school years and remember so many of my classmates who served in the military and in Vietnam. I thought of the row upon row of headstones that MJ and I and Aunt Lauretta and, one time before his passing, Uncle Merle…had walked through at Fort Bliss in El Paso Texas. I remembered the perfectly aligned white rows of grave markers in Tunis, Tunisia…and our tour guide…weeping…when he recounted how the United States had saved his country and his love for us…
Women and men…girls and boys…much younger than our sons…lay in those fields of honor…they understood what supreme sacrifice that they had been asked to give… War is not like the movies. It is hideous and destructive of both mind and body. When I was a child I wondered how that there could be so many opportunities for me and…so we were told…anyone who would apply themselves in our great Country…and yet my friends…my cousin…and thousands of others…were drafted to fight in Vietnam…and many died…and so life I soon learned…is unfair…
We are the recipients of others’ losses… We are comfortable and enjoy peace and tranquility…on the backs of untold masses of humanity…women and men…who had the same dreams and hopes and excitement regarding their lives…as we did. In the Marathon of Life…they were cut down…just as they left the starting gate…
‘In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders Fields.
Take up your quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw the torch; failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high, If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.’