11 November, 2014

Veterans' Day

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

-Henry V, Act IV, Scene III
Henry V is one of the first Shakespeare plays I ever saw (the Branagh version, of course). I was way too young to understand it, though I liked the fight scenes.  Then I saw Danny DeVito in Renaissance Man, a wildly implausible but thoroughly enjoyable movie, and prompted me to watch it again. It was moving, but as I was only a teenager, I still didn't really get it.

When I came home after that first surreal deployment, I watched it again. And this time, I got it.

Eleven years later, I still do.

To my Brothers who have served and to those with whom I still serve: it is not for any great cause that men fight. While we may join for love of country, or some more airy or earthy cause, we stay and risk all for the same reason: the man to our left, and the man to our right. It is for you, Brothers, that I stay in the line of battle, so that together we may ward our homes from that horror which has dogged the steps of Man from the beginning, and that only those who have glimpsed it truly know. I will not break faith with you, though Hell itself stand arrayed against us.

An old soldier does not die, though his arm may whither and his hair whiten. Within him remains that young man who stood up to fear and terror, so that others may live and need not know it.

And with him will always stand his Brothers.

Semper Fi

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