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