I was scooting around the web to find something proper for this day, but most of the war poetry that truly grips you is better suited for Memorial Day, such as the timeless “In Flanders Fields.”
Today is not a day to mourn our fallen. Today is a day to celebrate and give thanks to those who, generation after generation, pick up the torch and carry on the proud tradition of sacrificing so that others may sleep in peace, so that our nation and all that she stands for may endure forever.
And for that, I can find nothing better than this:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires:
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more, methinks, would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made
And crowns for convoy put into his purse:
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,
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 Crispin’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 remember’d.
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 remember’d;
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 accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Thank you, brothers and sisters, for all that you have done and continue to do. Thank you for the honor of being part of this brotherhood of ours. Thank you for the pride I feel whenever I see you carry the torch onward. Thank you for the selfless sacrifices that you lay down for people you don’t even know, for something that is bigger than yourselves, bigger than all of us.
From the bottom of my heart: Thank you.
And to those not of the brotherhood, you’re welcome. Very, very welcome. You owe us nothing, for we would have done what we did regardless. If there is a debt to be paid it is this, and only this: Continue to cherish the gifts you’ve been given, continue to enjoy the freedom you have to the fullest. Live each day making good use of the freedoms and liberties you have, exercise those rights bought and paid for already.
Do not let that gift sit in its wrapping to be worshiped and revered in hushed tones, but unwrap it joyfully and use it. Let every minute of your lives be a celebration of that gift and carry on the principles upon which it is founded into the future, so that future generations may enjoy it too.
Do that, and the price that was paid for it will be a bargain.
G-d Bless our men and women in harm’s way. Now and forever.