"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."
~ John McCrae (May, 1915)
Some will take today and tomorrow to honor those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. This is as it should be – the men and women who have served our nation with honor deserve that praise.
They walk among us without fanfare. If we run across a senior citizen in his 80s, chances are pretty good they served our nation during the dark days of World War II and/or the Korean Conflict. Theirs was a generation that sacrificed not necessarily because they wanted to, but because our nation needed them.
Remember, this is a generation that was raised during The Great Depression, when sacrifice and scarcity was present at all times.
In last week's column, I told the story of an Honor Flight taken by my father-in-law, Lawrence Higgins, to Washington D.C. Photos and letters from that voyage are starting to pile up. He has a stack of tributes from local officials and a slew of letters from local schoolchildren.
There were two concepts that kept coming back, time and again, as I read the letters - "thank you" and "courage." It is easy to ascertain the thank you, given their service. Without the sacrifice that the World War II veterans made during those dark days, the world might be a different place indeed.
The great powers of Europe knew that once aroused, the military might of the U.S. and the long history of sacrifice by her men and women would not fail. So, "thank you" are two words people say every year, especially those overseas.
Some 68 years after the war, the people of Europe, particularly the French, still welcome U.S. veterans when they come to visit the many memorials that dot the coast and interior of France.
"Courage," on the other hand, is a more complicated concept. Some would say that courage is a total lack of fear. I am not sure about that.
Courage, in my mind, means knowing the odds, understanding the sacrifice and making the conscious decision to move forward anyway. Higgins has a special understanding of what it took to make that landing on Okinawa in June, 1945.
When those men and women traveled to Washington a couple of weeks ago, they were full of a joy that comes with being reunited with comrades in arms, men and women that could understand their experiences. Those experiences are unique and cannot be described to those of us who did not share the foxhole.
So, I will end with a note of thanks from a student in Pat Scheeringa’s sixth-grade class at Highland Christian School.
Taylor Bapst wrote: “I can only imagine what your family felt and went through when you went into the Army. I just wanted to thank you for serving our country. The sacrifices you made are just incredible and some images will never disappear and I am sorry if you lost any family or friends [during the war]. Thank you for being loyal, courageous and strong.”
Well put, Taylor.