First Things

A day of remembrance


| November 1998



Leslie C. McManus

Leslie C. McDaniel

With all the commercial frenzy that surrounds Christmas, one of our most important national holidays is almost lost in the shuffle this month. Thanksgiving? Well, yes, that, too. But it's Veteran's Day I was thinking of. 

In the city, Veteran's Day is observed largely through big sales at the mall, or less frequently these days, at a parade. In the country, though, observance of Veterans Day is quieter, more solemn. In my hometown in rural Kansas, a delegation from the local American Legion or the VFW will put up flags at the cemetery that day. The volunteers will be mostly World War II vets, retirees in their mid-seventies. If it's a blustery day, as it often is here in November, the men's wives will fuss at them for going out. But the women might as well save their breath, for if these men understand anything, it's duty.

Surely that was the case more than 50 years ago, when farm boys all over the United States put on uniforms and took up arms. They went without question: Though their families needed them, their country's need was greater.

In times of war, farm families have always offered up a disproportionate number of their young. Farm families were bigger, and those boys already knew a harsh way of life; knew their way around a gun. After the war, countless aging farmers carried on alone, their sons maimed or killed; their dreams ended.

And so it has been, from this country's earliest battles to its most recent. Are there any who cherish peace more than those who've known both the serenity of the country, and the horror of war?

On a day not quite half-way into November, the flag will snap and dance atop the pole. Dry leaves skitter down the lane. Election Day is past, and the distractions of the approaching holidays are not quite upon us. It is a time of year when we consider home and family; duty and sacrifice. We remember, and we give thanks. FC