One cannot say it enough. Regardless of what you think of America, or what you have to say. You have millions who have paid with their life for your right to say it. And if you can’t appreciate it enough, think of this. You’re living on their dime.
I want to be brief in what I’m about to say regarding Veteran’s Day.
One, I don’t think any of us truly appreciates it enough, as well as the men and women who served, who fought, died, and paid for those inalienable rights that each of us have as Americans. It’s so important that EVERY day should be thought of as Veteran’s Day.
Two, I struggle to understand, and appreciate, those who walk the streets of America to protest, without having contributed one damned earthly thing to the American process. All they do is bitch. What Kennedy said during his inaugural address in 1960: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” We’re about as far from that today as east from west.
And three, people frequently ask me why I’m so obsessed with Civil War history, given the issues of that day – slavery, state’s rights, and the unprecedented brutality of American on American. And for lack of a better answer I borrow from the late historian Shelby Foote. Foote said: “You cannot appreciate what America is today without an appreciation of how we got here. Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us.”
Having studied the Civil War for more than 50 years, I’m still learning about what that statement means. But the essential meaning is this. It did define us…because in 1861 through 1865 Americans were willing to fight each other to preserve an American ideal of liberty, and preservation of the union, justifying Lincoln’s famous statement that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
What they did here?
This is what that means. That we’ll never again see a generation of people with the courage or conviction to fight to the death on American soil for our very existence, the likes of those who fought the Civil War.
Most know that I have an interest in music…have a degree in performance and education from Ohio State University. And I’m especially taken with the music of that 19th century era. In particular, when I think of Veteran’s Day, presently, I think of Julia Ward Howe’s contribution to history through her writing of the lyrics to the Battle Hymn of The Republic, ultimately set to the music of the old abolitionist’s song, ‘John Brown’s Body’.
She wrote it as a poem, and in early 1862 sold that poem to the Atlantic Monthly, a well-known magazine, for $5. The lyrics, and the song, spread quickly through the Union armies and was adopted by Union supporters who wanted to teach the southern rebels a lesson. It was packed with Biblical imaging and phrasing. And of course, Howe, being an abolitionist, took dead aim at the institution of slavery.
The song found immediate favor throughout the northern states, to the point where it soon became the rallying cry of the Union war effort. And more surprising, in post-war years it continued to grow in popularity. Eventually, it was recorded by nearly every vocalist, or vocal group, in America, and none more famous than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
The lyrics are known throughout the world:
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
And on this Veteran’s Day, I’ll share with you a particular favorite recording. I would urge you to listen. to appreciate…those who have felt the lightning of that terrible swift sword.
The price paid. And the promise that His truth is, indeed…marching on!