RUSH: Now, given that this is Veterans Day, I want to share with you the Morning Update that we did today on the first part of the day today in our commentary segments on these various EIB Network affiliates. These run early in the morning during what is called ‘morning drive.’
In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Across the Atlantic, England and France also laid unknown soldiers to rest. The three ceremonies occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. A 1926 congressional resolution gave the date an official name, Armistice Day. Twelve years later it became an official holiday honoring veterans of the First World War. In 1947, World War II vet Raymond Weeks organized national Veterans Day in Birmingham, Alabama, to honor all veterans. Seven years later president Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11th Veterans Day. The history of the holiday is one thing, but the reason for it is another. Two hundred and thirty years is not a lot of time in the scope of recorded history, yet during that span the idea that people are capable of governing themselves if they have the will to defend their freedom has transformed the world.
The profound impact of freedom on billions of lives is impossible to calculate. So, too, is freedom’s cost. The hardships and sacrifices that American veterans have borne. Their innumerable individual acts of valor and compassion are known only to the ages. No other nation in the history of this world has given so many sons and daughters to defend the freedom of others, too often without thanks from those they liberate. So to our American veterans, each one of you — and to the memory of those who came before you — thank you, and from all of us, God bless you.
One other thing. The president early on in his speech spoke of courage, and just quite by coincidence, I happened to run across a thought or two, a little mini-essay on courage by G. K. Chesterton from his essay in 1908 called Orthodoxy. And it’s interesting. Some of it a little bit difficult to cipher through, but other parts of this just make brilliant sense.
He writes: “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book. The paradox is the whole principle of courage, even of quite earthly or quite brutal courage. A man cut off by the sea may save his life if he will risk it on the precipice. He can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity and I certainly have not done so, but Christianity has done more. It has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living, and him who dies for the sake of dying, and it has held up ever since, above the European lances, the banner of the mystery of chivalry, the Christian courage, which is a disdain of death.”
I read this today, and I was hoping I would have the occasion to read this without just throwing it in here as a non sequitur without some sort of transition. When the president started talking about it I ran back to the computer and printed this out, because the part of it that hits home with me is the business that if you’re cut off by the sea, you have to save your life by risking it. You can only get away from death by continually stepping within an inch of it. Which is precisely what combat soldiers do each and every day, and the attitude that they must have about it is also something that’s special and unique, and people that have never, ever engaged in it — and most of us haven’t — will never understand it. That’s why this little short essay by G. K. Chesterton from Orthodoxy in 1908, I think, was so powerful to me. It finally explains what sets these people apart. So it’s Veterans Day, and we salute all of you past, present and future, and your families.