The Color of Bravery

halfstaffrespect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed – Romans 13:7

Recently while walking on one of those picturesque Southern courthouse squares, I was troubled while looking upon the granite memorials sitting atop the Saint Augustine carpet. On both the World War I and World War II monuments in this small southern town, there were not one, but two alphabetical lists of men who died in their country’s service. On one monument there were two sides, “Colored” and “White”. On the other monument the “Colored” list came after the first list (presumably the “white” list).

It is one thing to be divided in life, it is quite another to be divided in memoriam. I know the history. I know units were desegregated in 1948. But these monuments are not military rosters, they are monuments dedicated by a small town to honor their local heroes (both monuments were erected in the 50’s).  To add insult to injury, there is not one, but three Confederate monuments on this same lawn (not to say having one is inappropriate).  I am not necessarily advocating the removal of any monument or even necessarily the replacing of present monuments, I am simply reflecting on the sad state of a community that differentiates its heroes in such a graven way. I am not an advocate of erasing history, but I do hope for the day of an equalizing of history. We may also note not in this town, but in other towns, there are courthouses built of red clay bricks bearing the thumb prints of the slaves who made them and laid them while the granite cornerstones give credit to white architects, civic leaders, and financial contributors. Acknowledgement is due to all who built and contributed to communities regardless of their lineage or heritage. Every man and woman who lived, loved, and died in these communities loved freedom and is an indelible part of the American fabric – a quilt woven together by the lives given to hold her together.  The artificial division of those lives on a stone monument is a travesty. What differentiates the men on these monuments is not their color but their courage, not their status but their sacrifice.

The colors that matter are the red that ran through their blue veins and the white in their determined eyes. On this Memorial Day, let us be grateful for all of America’s true heroes with no distinction but the bravery with which they fought.

A Great and Noble Undertaking: June 6, 1944

 

“Good luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” – Dwight Eisenhower, Order of the Day. June 6, 1944

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Today marks the seventieth year since the Allied invasion of a Europe enveloped in the darkness of Hitler’s Third Reich, remembered as “D-Day.”

One of the neatest items I poses is a copy of D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climatic Battle of World War II by the late historian Stephen E. Ambrose. I know many may possess and have read this book, but mine is special because it is a gift directly from the author and is inscribed: “For John, My fellow Eagle Scout and fellow historian, who, like me, has a wonderful Dad. Stephen E. Ambrose. Bay St. Louis 12/7/99.” (historians will also note the date of the inscription). There is a longer story about this but not one I am telling at the moment.

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This book contains some of the most poignantly written passages in American historiography ever. In honor and memory of the brave allies and “citizen soldiers” of the United States I would like to quote a few lines from this monumental work:

First note this:

“[The Average American draftee] was twenty-six years old, five feet eight inches tall, weighed 144 pounds, had a thirty-three-and-a-half-inch chest, and a thirty-one-inch waist. After thirteen weeks of basic training, he’d gained seven pounds (and converted many of his original pounds from fat to muscle) and added at least one inch to his chest. Nearly half of the draftees were high-school graduates; one in ten had some college. As Geoffry Perret puts it in his history of the U.S. Army in WW II, “these were the best educated men of any army in history.”

Also: only two out of the fifty American divisions who participated in the invasion had seen combat. The British and other Allied numbers were similar.

Now read:

“They wanted to be throwing baseballs, not hand grenades, shooting .22s at rabbits, not M-1s at other young men. But when the test came, when freedom had to be fought for or abandoned, they fought. They were soldiers of democracy. They were the men of D-Day, and to them we owe our freedom.”

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