Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Lessons from history

In the last week I have been working on a project that included reading my grandfathers letters home from WWI. He sent these letters to my grandmother who at the time was just his sweetheart. It has been bizarre to read these letters as I watch news reports of action in Iraq. Some things seem to have not changed at all in the last 85 years.

I knew I would want to write about this experience here on Geographica but was unsure how to connect the stories. Unfortunately some idiot vandals made the connection for me. If you have not seen the story before the what has happened is that the largest cemetery of British dead from WWI in France has been defaced. I can not adequately espress my anger and disgust at the fact that some French idiot with a can of red paint wrote "Dig up your rubbish it is fouling our soil" in French.

I just want to combat that statement with an few lines from my grandfathers letters. He was in the 132nd Infantry - I am not yet sure of exactly how much or what kind of fighting his unit saw but I do know that my grandfather was briefly blinded by Mustard Gas and saw many of his friends die.

On Oct. 21, 1918 He wrote "Oh, if the boys would only sing. But then, the best singers are not here now including Mack. He will never come back and many others never will. It is so very lonely, why did they take all of our best? The hike was terrible. Never a song, never a joke, very seldom a word. You must pray for my boys. You pray for all our boys, but make it for my boys now. They have paid a terrible price for the honor they have gained." "I have not suffered physically, but think I have put in enough mental agony to make up for it."

"I have learned a great deal in the past few days. Many times before I have seen a man hurled into Eternity. I have seen many companies go into battle and come out with vacent files. I have also seen losses in my own outfit but this time we got a snootfull. When a man suddenly stops talking to me in order to give an account of his Stewardship before the Seat of Judgement I am compelled to think. The chance of losing ones life in this argument is rather slim as a rule, but at times it is almost a certainty."

On the topic of France and the French my grandfather was not particularly impressed. He wrote "Didn't I tell you enough about Paris? I was only there 8 hours. With a parade in the middle of that there is only a few minutes left. I saw most of it from the train. I don't care if I never see Paris again. Rather see Chicago any old day. The girls over here are not so great at all. American girls have it all over the French."

I agree - I don't care if I never see Paris again either. In the light of recent actions by the French - Chicago is just fine for me too.

The men who lie in the cemetery that has been defaced were young men like my grandfather. Men who made the ultimate sacrifice for FRANCE. If the cretins who vandalised the monument do not understand that they are not worthy of the honor of those graves on French soil. Steven Den Beste has an excellent post on the subject of French land made holy by the sacrifices of young men in war. He has put his finger on why this vandalism occured "Our war dead have been targeted because they can no longer fight back."

It is up to us to fight back against the vandals and the French who would create a society in which this is acceptable behaviour - just another expression of displeasure at the actions of the coalition. We must stand witness to the sacrifices that those young men made for Europe and we must ensure that their sacrifices are never forgotten. The French have shown that they are unwilling to pay proper tribute and to protect their protectors - it is up to us. For that reason I posted the quotes from my grandfather. They are his messages through time to all of us to honor his fallen comrades.


Post a Comment

<< Home