From ancient Greece comes these words of the Statesman Pericles “I would have you day by day fix your eyes upon the greatness of your country until you become filled with the love of her; and when you are impressed by the spectacle of her glory, reflect that it has been acquired by men who knew their duty and had the courage to do it.”
In 1944, in describing the Normandy invasion, journalist Ernie Pyle wrote, “Darkness enveloped the whole American armada. Not a pinpoint of light showed from those hundreds of ships as the surged on through the night toward their destiny, carrying across the ageless and indifferent sea tens of thousands of young men, fighting for….well, at least each other.”
In the wake of September 11th, 17 year old Ryan Smithson, a graduate of Columbia High School in East Greenbush joined the Army Reserve. Two years later he deployed to Iraq as an Army Engineer. In his book Ghosts of War, Smithson wrote “We’re a platoon full of simple GIs. We’re not Airborne Rangers or Special Forces or even Infantry. We’re Army reserve engineers and we have more invested in our lives outside than inside the military. I am only one of these simple GIs and I am nothing special. I am a copy of a copy of a copy. I’m that vague, illegible, pink sheet on the very bottom of carbon paper stacks. They will not make movies about me. There will be no video games revolving around my involvement in the war. When people write nonfiction books about the Iraq war, about the various battles and changes of command, I will not be in them. My unit will not be mentioned. I am just a GI, nothing special; a kid doing my job. I am one soldier and I stand in one squad in one platoon in one company during the battalion formation. And we’re in this together. Our wives and girlfriends are home. Our moms and dads and siblings left behind. All we have is one another.”
On this Veterans Day remember the sacrifice, service, duty and many times, injury and death, paid by the men and women, boys and girls, sons and daughters who we honor. As we go forward let’s envision a world which, grown weary with fighting, affirms the life of every human being and so moves beyond war. Only fools would elect to forget the expensive a lessons of war and we are neither a community nor a nation of fools.