Sunday, May 17, 2009

Memorial Day: Dulce et Decorum Est

RAY GARRETT, my grandfather, in his World War I uniform. My father, Ray Garrett, Jr., served in World War II.

It is for those who have fought in wars, even led them, to tell us just how horrible they are.

At Memorial Day, I think of the words of General Dwight David Eisenhower:

"I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity."

"There is no glory in battle worth the blood shed."

"When people speak to you about a preventive war, you tell them to go and fight it. After my experience, I have come to hate war."

and of this poem by Wilfred Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est". Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori is from Horace. It means "it is sweet and right to die for your country."

By Wilfred Owen, best known poet of World War I

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Good poetry should disturb.

The following poem was written by Dr. John J. Alifano, when he was 12 years old. He went on to serve as a doctor in Vietnam and would be the first to agree with Eisenhower.


This is a sacred date,
When we commemorate,
Our dear ones who are no more,
But are remembered as before.

On each Memorial Day
We keep from work and play
To pay homage instead,
To our ever-gallant dead.

Our brave soldiers who fought
For the freedom they brought
Made our country so great
That no one will under rate.

So let's give flowers and thanks
To our heroes in all the ranks,
Who fought for justice and peace,
May our love for them never cease.

My father, Ray Garrett, Jr., fought in the Battle of the Bulge, on the Nothern Shoulder, where the Germans attacked. This was with General Hodges. History confirms that this army "bore the full weight of the German offensive through the Ardennes (December 1944) and held the northern position of the American lines in the ensuing Battle of the Bulge."

In personal communication, Ray said he considered that attack "a complete waste of humanity. The Germans knew they were beat but had to mount this final, stupid, pointless attack."

The Battle of the Bulge was fought from December 16, 1944 until January 28, 1945. It is considered the largest land battle of World War II in which the US participated, and it was the bloodiest.

When does it end.

"The people of the world genuinely want peace. Some day the leaders of the world are going to have to give in and give, it to them." ~ Dwight David Eisenhower

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