In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans Day: Mansions of the Lord

Wednesday, November 11 is Veterans Day in the United States, honoring all men and women who have served in our Armed Forces in peacetime and in all our wars. It was originally known as Armistice Day, commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 that ended World War I. In 1953, an Emporia, Kansas businessman named Al King launched a campaign to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War I. A bill for changing the holiday to "Veterans Day" was passed by Congress, and President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law in 1954.

Though most if not all school children have the day off, I doubt many of them even know why. How many school assemblies will there be, featuring patriotic music and addresses by men and women in the armed forces explaining what they and their forbears bought for this country with their time, fortunes, blood, and lives? Some, perhaps, but not many. Also rare will be church services honoring our heroes in uniform, past, present, and future. Government offices will be closed, but most businesses remain open. Most workers won't notice what day it is unless they stop some store's "Veterans Day Sale" on the way home. Years ago aging veterans, probably most of World War II and Korea, used to sell commemorative poppy pins on street corners in downtown Rochester. They're probably all passed on now, or discouraged by people's indifference.

It's not quite this way in Great Britain and Commonwealth countries like Canada and Austrailia. As I'll explain in my next post, "Remembrance Day," as they call November 11, is a solemn occasion for most people. Church services and moving ceremonies are held in London and across the UK, which include the Queen, military and civilian leaders, and especially veterans of all units and branches of service. Poppies (or pins resembling them) commemorating the fallen are commonplace. Two minutes of silence at 11 a.m. ("the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month") are observed everywhere.

This is how Veterans Day should be observed in this country--universally, and with reverence. We do have Memorial Day in May, but that's officially devoted to those service members who died in war (and that holiday isn't taken much more seriously by most people than Veterans Day). Think how much we owe to everyone who has served in uniform, including those who came home and those on their way to posts all over the country and the world! How many returned service members, even those who haven't been wounded in battle, must deal with emotional or physical scars that may plague them all their lives? Think of all the separation, anxiety, and privation that military families endure to defend our country and civilization! We all owe them a debt that can never be repaid, except in respect and support.

Melany and I are both so proud to be children of veterans!--her father Charles D. Spendlove, of the United States Army, and mine John W. Fleming, of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Thank God both those wonderful men came home and were able to raise good families! Melany is especially lucky also to have a veteran brother, Michael D. Spendlove, of the United States Air Force.

So, sometime on Wednesday, ask yourself this: have I hugged a veteran today?

And now, a tribute to our veterans that brings home, more powerfully than anything else I've seen or heard, the awful sacrifices that our warriors and their families are called upon to make. The hymn is called Mansions of the Lord, as sung by the West Point Glee Club at the end of the great Vietnam War film We Were Soldiers. This hymn also served as the recessional in the 2004 funeral of President Ronald Reagan. The text follows the video below, and you can download the original music for free, in .mp3 format here.

I guarantee that you'll come away from this with teary eyes, and a deeper appreciation for what it means to serve our country.

The Mansions of the Lord
Words by Randall Wallace

To fallen soldiers let us sing,
Where no rockets fly nor bullets wing,
Our broken brothers let us bring
To the Mansions of the Lord.

No more bleeding, no more fight,
No prayers pleading through the night,
Just divine embrace, eternal light
In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where no mothers cry and no children weep,
We will stand and guard though the angels sleep,
Oh through the ages safely keep
The Mansions of the Lord.

Below is the solo voice portion, an excerpt from "Sgt. MacKenzie" by Joseph Kilna MacKenzie, as sung in a Scottish dialect and with a "translation" to standard English:

Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun
Lay me doon in the caul caul groon
Whaur afore monie mair huv gaun

Ains a year say a prayer faur me
Close yir een an remember me

Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone
Lay me down in the cold cold ground
Where before many more have gone

Once a year say a prayer for me
Close your eyes and remember me

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG--you were absolutely right: "The Mansions of the Lord" DID bring me to tears (I'm crying right now as I write this)!! And the combination of the pictures and music just did me in.... THANK YOU for posting this!