normandy-cemetery

“It is for you to try to be like them.”
Pericles’ Funeral Oration

I have to admit a problem that I’ve had with Memorial Day. I’ve often let my thoughts move too easily to the fact that some fallen warriors are not the best examples of what we want to remember. I’ve found myself thinking: were they all truly patriotic? Were they really brave, and willing to die? Or perhaps, did they die in a conflict where American soldiers should not have been there anyway?

And I am ashamed. They deserve more. From me.

The simple fact of their death should be enough. More than enough. Of course some who have fallen in the line of duty stand out as especially exemplary; and it is fitting that their stories are told and remembered in a special way. But a fundamental premise of Memorial Day is that all who have fallen are worthy to be honored. And perhaps above all, simply worthy to be remembered, with real gratitude.

They have died in the service of their country, which is my country. They have thus died for me. For me. So regardless of anything else, I resolve to remember them, to honor them, and to pray for them, and theirs. And even somehow to try to be like them.

Pericles (495-429 B.C.), a great general, statesman, and orator, ruled Athens during its Golden Age. Several of his speeches are recorded by Thucydides (460-395 B.C.) in his History of the Peloponnesian War. One of the most famous is the funeral oration for fallen Athenian soldiers.

Originally posted at Bacon from Acorns.

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John A. Cuddeback is a professor and chairman of the Philosophy Department at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, where he has taught since 1995. He received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America under the direction of F. Russell Hittinger. He has lectured on various topics including virtue, culture, natural law, friendship, and household. His book Friendship: The Art of Happiness was republished in 2010 as True Friendship: Where Virtue Becomes Happiness. His writings have appeared in Nova et Vetera, The Thomist, and The Review of Metaphysics, as well as in several volumes published by the American Maritain Association. Though raised in what he calls an ‘archetypical suburb,’ Columbia, Maryland, he and his wife Sofia consider themselves blessed to be raising their six children in the shadow of the Blue Ridge on the banks of the Shenandoah. At the material center of their homesteading projects are heritage breed pigs, which like the pigs of Eumaeus are fattened on acorns, yielding a bacon that too few people ever enjoy. His website dedicated to the philosophy of family and household is baconfromacorns.com.

1 COMMENT

  1. My mother’s brother was killed somewhere in western Germany in March of 1945, a mere nineteen years old. My father’s brother, having served in WWI, was severely wounded in the landings in North Africa, the only one of his platoon of which he was the sergeant to survive, if surviving is what one calls remaining in chain of V.A. hospitals from Mississippi, to Arkansas, to Louisiana from 1943 to his eventual death in 1976 surviving. My father served first in England and then on the Continent from 1942-1945. The months on the Continent were apparently a hell of which he talked very little, save for the humorous stories on the fringe of constant fear and terror internalized and marshaled by the discipline of a soldier. The one story from the bloody heart of the beast of war which he shared was as he moved forward in the ebb and flow of battle, at one with the beast as its destroyer and its potential victim, was his encounter during a lull of battle like a short pause in a musical score of the Götterdämmerung with a young German soldier in his final death throes. In his face, yielding to death as my father reached down instinctively, an instinctiveness which ran counter to the instinctiveness which had been drilled into him as a soldier, to touch him was the face of my father’s older brother, three years older, who had died at the age of ten when my father was seven. They had been very close, his older brother having called him, my father said, “the shadow.”

    My uncle killed in Germany lies buried in France among the rows of cross like those pictured above. My father and uncle lie buried in family plots near our hometown. My uncle lived to see the the broken remains of as yet living soldiers from the remaining battles of WWII, from all of the battles of Korea and all of the battle of Vietnam. He cried, literally for them all, the tears of an old platoon sergeant. Yet, neither my father nor my uncle liked the “hallowed ground” rhetoric nor the public fawning, particularly when such is used by the politicians who instigate unnecessary wars under the color of “making the world save for democracy” or “fighting for our freedoms,” to further yet more schemes by playing the natural feelings and emotions for a people who are at their heart genuinely grateful for true sacrifices.

    My father understood war, the friends which it claimed and the years of his own life that it claimed, to be an utter waste.

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