I posted the following on October 2, 2013. Reposting it in its entirety (though reformatted) for the Memorial Day weekend, 2019.
Ernie Pyle was an American journalist and war correspondent. A quick perusal of Brave Men confirms that he wrote from the perspective of the common soldier.
A few snippets from Chapter 35, “A Last Word”:
This final chapter is being written in the latter part of August, 1944; it is being written under an apple tree in a lovely green orchard in the interior of France. It could well be that the European war will be over and done with by the time you read this book. Or it might not be. But the end is inevitable.
It will seem odd when, at some given hour, the shooting stops and everything suddenly changes again. … odd not to listen with animal-like alertness for the meaning of every distant sound; odd to have your spirit released from the perpetual weight that is compounded of fear and death and dirt and noise and anguish.
The end of war will be a gigantic relief, but it cannot be a matter of hilarity for most of us. Somehow it would seem sacrilegious to sing and dance when the great day comes– there are so many who can never sign and dance again.
Thousands of our men will be returning to you after Europe. They have been gone a long time and they have seen and done and felt things you cannot know. They will have to be changed. They will have to learn how to adjust themselves to peace. Last night we had a violent electrical storm around our countryside. The storm was half over before we realized the the flashes and the crashings around us were not artillery but plain old-fashioned thunder and lightening. It will be odd to hear only thunder again. You must remember that such little things as that are in our souls, and it will take time.[my emphasis]
Pyle himself was among the brave men who died during WWII. He was shot by a Japanese snipper and died instantly. He was one of few civilians to be awarded the Purple Heart.
405,400 American men died during WWII. Let that sink in.
Many more brave men, of course returned home after Europe, the Pacific, Korea, Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
To be sure, you’ve now read or heard about the manner in which a bunch of infirm old men were treated when they attempted to visit a war memorial yesterday. And of course you’re seeing the same old blame game play out this morning.
To be candid, Mr. Big Food and I had fun watching this story unfold. Seriously? But the more I thought about it, the less inclined I was to laugh. We are supposed to be the land of the free and home of the brave. Where was just one brave soul willing to announce that he or she was not going to be putting a road block up at a war memorial?
So you know who I’m blaming for this shameful treatment of brave men?
I’m blaming the cowardly men and women of the National Parks Service. Those men and women– in uniform no less!– who drove the trucks with the barricades stacked in the bed, who unfolded them and set them up.
I’m blaming those cowardly men and women who just followed along, whose conscience didn’t compel them to say, “This is stupid. This is wrong. I will not participate.”
I am blaming those cowardly men and women who are not worthy of the sacrifices brave men make.