Veterans Day

by Ted on November 11, 2003

When I lived in South London a few years ago, there were a handful of small cemetaries within walking distance of my house. It was an interesting contrast. American gravestones tend to be fairly minimalist; it’s unusual to see much more than “Beloved Father” or a Bible verse. In British cemetaries, we saw a number of memorials with very personal, heart-rending epitaphs. Widows and widowers inscribed “I’m lost without you” on the graves of their spouses; parents wondered why God couldn’t wait a little longer to take their beautiful children.

The gravestone that sticks with me is a memorial for a soldier from New Zealand who didn’t come home. His parents bought a plot for him in a graveyard in South London that they probably never saw. I wish now that I had thought to write down the epitaph. It was not an appeal to patriotism, or to the good cause. It was a controlled cry of anguish from parents who had lost their beloved son to a small piece of land on the other side of the world.

People like me, who have never really been cold or hungry or frightened in their whole lives, have the duty to be grateful for his sacrifice. But to his parents, it was surely more than they could stand.

I owe more than I can say to our soldiers and our veterans, to people like Kos and Tacitus and Wesley Clark and George H. W. Bush and my brother Scott. Thank you.



enthymeme 11.11.03 at 10:11 pm

Epitaff, epitaph.


Ted Barlow 11.11.03 at 10:16 pm

Good point. It’s just been corrected; thanks.


enthymeme 11.11.03 at 10:23 pm

You missed the one in the second paragraph sir.



wc 11.12.03 at 1:37 am

Alright language police. Enough is Enuff.


rilkefan 11.12.03 at 2:24 am

Agreed. Incidentally, note that Tacitus writes (see
re Kos’s Veteran’s Day posts:

Honor veterans, but don’t trust those who use their vet status as a cudgel to claim moral superiority over you or others — especially when they equate their morality and their politics.

Furthermore, don’t let anyone appropriate this day for partisan gain, left or right.


Steve 11.12.03 at 5:21 am

Why in the world do you owe anything to GHW Bush?

He dodged the draft, and has now foolishly put so many Americans in danger. I did, and do support the war effort – but had I known how unprepared we were, boy would my attitude have been different.

Bush is a moron, with a bunch of competent people around him calling the shots. Only problem is that the people calling the shots think its still 1960, when they first got into government.


Katherine 11.12.03 at 6:44 am

Steve, H.W. is W.’s father. Served in WW2.


nick 11.12.03 at 6:01 pm

A contrast: North American obituaries tend to be much more biographical than their British counterparts. You get the whole life story related in the back of the Asheville Squirrel-Telegraph, whereas the Northern Echo only has ‘Died peacefully aged 87 after a long illness, beloved wife of Fred, mother of Tom, Dick and Harry, grandmother of Huey, Louie and Dewey.’ Perhaps the grave epitaphs compensate (though my experience is that they’re usually as succinct).

The most eloquent memorials, though, are those honouring the Great War dead in small villages: people who often fell together, on the same day, neighbours and brothers and fathers and sons. Seeing surname after surname repeated for a place that counts perhaps a few hundred residents is heart-stopping.


Dave 11.12.03 at 6:38 pm

I wish I’d seen the Tacitus quote when I posted on Citizen Smash in response to this cartoon.


Antoni Jaume 11.12.03 at 8:25 pm

Steve, so you may have a more extensive answer to who is GHW Bush:

However, I think that the Bush family had been trading with Hitler Germany up till they declared war on the USA a few days after Pearl Harbor.


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