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Veterans Day 2014

Just a few things I’m thinking about today.

Two or three of us took a little ramble out on the field . . . I saw five dead all killed by one six pound solid shot. They had been behind a log and all in a row. The ball had raked them as they crouched behind the log. One of them had his head taken off. One had been struck at the right shoulder and his chest lay open. One had been cut in two at the bowels and nothing held the carcass together but the spine. One had been hit at the thighs and the legs were torn from the body. The fifth and last one was piled up into a mass of skull, arms, some toes and the remains of a uniform . . .

Ambulances and men are hurrying over the field and gathering up the wounded. The surgeons are cutting off the arms and legs. Burying parties and details are out burying the dead this evening . . . The terrible rain of last night has filled the ground with water . . . The trees are just bursting into leaf and the little flowers are covering the ground — but their fragrance is lost in the pall of death which has settled down on this bloody field.

This is the valley and the shadow of death.

Cyrus Boyd
Shiloh, Tennessee 1862

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.

John McCrae
Belgium 1915

Robert Capa
Normandy, France June 6, 1944

He was only eighteen years old. I put his hand in mine. “I’m a nurse,” I said. “You’re in an American hospital. We’re going to make you as comfortable as possible.” It was what we said to all the ones we classified as expectants, those we expected to die. Maybe, if there were more time, he could be saved. But there were too many others.

Linda Van Devanter
Vietnam, 1968

We parked and went running into the airport – really running – holding hands and laughing and remembering how we almost missed his arrival home from R&R under similar circumstances. “I’m going to tackle him!” shouted the Preschooler. “I’m going to tickle him!” announced Sweet Pea. “And I’m going to see it all,” I whispered.

We came down the long hallway at Portland International Airport and stopped right at the confluence of the security gate causeway. People streamed out of their flights without any regard to the fact that I was looking for my husband without my glasses on. I didn’t see him, but he was walking directly toward us. Sweet Pea suddenly shouted, “there he is!” and took off running.

I saw his smile first. And then his uniform.

He was in his desert uniform, and I couldn’t see his face now as he stooped down to hug his babies. I grabbed my heart as the Preschooler climbed my husband like a monkey scaling a tree and Sweet Pea clung to his uniform like she was about to be torn from him by a hurricane.

And then, with all his paraphernalia, he was moving, toward me.

Lori Volkman
Portland, Oregon 2011

Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.

Saint Francis of Assisi
Italy, 1204


While you may not have tons of time today to focus on Veterans Day, don’t be afraid to use some of the resources listed below later in your instruction.

Start with Veterans’ Stories from the Library of Congress Teachers page. You’ll find audio clips, video clips and stories from their Veterans History Project that can be viewed or downloaded as well as a Teacher’s Guide.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Becky Ryckeley #

    Another great column, Glenn! I always enjoy reading your thoughts, but today’s was particularly moving. Thank you!

    November 11, 2014

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