November 12, 2001


On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, pens were taken in hand and the armistice that was to end the "war to end all wars" was signed. Several years later, an unknown soldier from that conflict was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, the Abby at Westminster, England and at the Arch de Triomphe in France. The ceremony in all three countries was acknowledged November 11th as "Armistice Day."

America lost almost one hundred and seventeen thousand men and women in the trenches and battlefields of Europe. My grandfather, Private Claude Erwin, of Cabell County, West Virginia, sailed for the front in May of 1918 and served there for three months. Private Erwin came back alive, although wounded in spirit.

Claude did not return to a world safe for democracy. It has often been said that the seeds for the next great conflagration that enveloped the planet were sown on the eleventh hour of that eleventh day. When it was all said and done, another four hundred and seven thousand more men and women had died in the service of their country.

Since that time we have seen our share of conflict after conflict, and when called upon, there have been men and women to stand for us in the face of aggression.

We live in a land of paradoxes, where the freedom to speak our minds, is also the freedom to offend.

Many in these days have forgotten that fact, and they may have forgotten that our freedoms have been bought and paid for, by blood and sweat and many many tears. Across this land and around the world you can find their names into granite and etched into bronze relief.

A nation united was not always so in this land, for in a battle of division, brother fought against brother, and family fought against family. Generally it is known as the "Civil War" but in these days of revisionist history, you will find it called in the south, "The war of Northern Aggression."

Recently I walked through the fields of one of our national monuments dedicated to preserving the history of that great conflict.

Bronze and gold and marble now adorn fields where citizen faced citizen for 47 days of brutal siege.

As I walked through the narrow door into the monument built by the state of Illinois, I was drawn to the wall of names of those who had served in the great battle. The monument itself is dedicated by these words: "The people of Illinois, free of malice, full of charity, dedicate this monument as a memorial temple to enduring harmony and peace; and as a shrine at which all may again and again renew their consecration to loyal citizenship and gather inspiration to the most unselfish and exalted patriotism."

The sun lay low on the horizon and a narrow shaft of light illuminated a narrow section of the wall.

If you wanted to, you would be free to walk this land from north to south and run your hands over all of the names on all of the tombs and markers and monuments. And when you total it all up, you will find that while fighting brother against brother, more Americans died than in fighting the Great Wars of the last century, 558,000 in all.

When I think about it, it seems curious that we do not have a national holiday to commemorate those who served and died in preserving our Union of States.

"Armistice Day" has been transformed over the years into a day of remembrance for all of those who have served our country. In prior years, I confess that the day passed with little notice. Perhaps I noticed the banks were closed, or maybe I missed the mail. This year however, is different.

The why is obvious. We were attacked, and men and women in uniform are responding to the call of their country.

There are those who believe that the course on which we find ourselves is futile, and reckless and without honor. They seem to believe we wage war for power, or oil, or vengeance or ignorance.

What I find most curious is that those who would call for restraint and negotiation and changes of "policy" can do so, because our freedoms have been bought and paid for, by those who have donned uniforms to serve.

Some cry that they only want to "protect" those, who this night, find themselves in harm's way. They may even think that they are right.Personally I suspect that Theodore Roosevelt had it right when he said: "Against naked force the only possible defense is naked force. The aggressor makes the rules for such a war; the defenders have no alternative but matching destruction with more destruction, slaughter with greater slaughter."

I know that some who read this will believe it to be the philosophy of a Neanderthal.

That's ok. They have the freedom to say what they will, and so do I.

And if they get mugged, let's see if they call for a cop.

11-11-11 is now remembered on the second Monday in November, which happens this year to be November 12.

For all the men and women who serve, and have served, I have just two words:

Thank you.

"He is most free from danger, who, even when safe, is on his guard."
Pubilius Syrus