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They Shall Grow Not Old

November 11, 2015

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

– Robert Binyon, “For The Fallen”

Few holidays transcend multiple cultures. Most that do are religious in nature. There’s Christmas on December 25th. There’s Hanukkah, December 6 through December 14 this year. There’s Easter, March 27 in 2016. And then there are a few additional ones. There’s New Year’s Eve and New Years Day, of course. There’s International Talk Like A Pirate Day, September 19. And then there’s today: November 11.  

It’s called Remembrance Day, or Poppy Day in Britain and other Commonwealth countries. France and Belgium also call it Remembrance Day. In the United States, it’s known as Veterans Day. In Poland it’s Independence Day. 

November 11, 1918 is the actual date we are not so much celebrating as remembering. It marked the end of hostilities in the Great War. Sadly, our ancestors didn’t yet know they needed to number them. Today we call it the end of World War I. Hostilities ended “at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.” The treaty that formally ended the war was signed months later on June 28, 1919. But, the people of the world stopped trying to kill each other 97 years ago today. 

There was a thought, a hope really, that the devastation had been so bad that perhaps the countries of the world would see it as a chance to step back and reassess how they settled disagreements between countries. It didn’t work, of course. Some would say it was foolish to ever think it would. Just a short 20 years later, the same countries would be plunged right back into conflict with each other again. 

But, at the time, there was hope. 

War, despite it’s horrors, brings innovation. Advances in aviation came from the conflict in the early 20th century. We learned better how to treat the wounded. We did manage to for the most part abandon the use of chemical weapons on the scale they were used in that conflict. 

But, despite any benefits, the adage is true: War is hell. And those who fight are asked to walk into the fires of hell, to kill or be killed, to set aside their natural inclination to nuture and lift each other and instead find the most efficient way to destroy one another. 

We like to think of today’s wars as almost civilized affairs. We can drop smart bombs on a house and leave those standing on either side untouched. We can destroy an enemy by obliterating his infrastructure from the safety of 30,000 feet. Our warriors are no longer conscripted. So, we can convince ourselves that we are not sending our young men and women to bleed and die. They are volunteering. That makes it more okay, right? 

I’m not ignoring the need to go to war. Some people and countries only respect or respond to force. I’m also not glamorizing or glorifying it. We should use only the amount of force necessary to ensure victory, but no more. 

I’m glad I don’t have to decide where that line is drawn. 

Today, much of the free world takes a moment to celebrate those who stand on the wall so that the rest of us can sleep peacefully at night. 

Today is also a day to say thanks. To so who serve and those who have served and those who support them. 

Mayb God keep you safe and may we work toward a world where you are no longer needed. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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