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It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
This is the quote attributed to General George S. Patton in his extemporaneous remarks at Boston’s Copely Plaza, on June 7, 1945. There’s no written record (on his part) of his saying such a thing, and the historical recounting depends on William Blair’s New York Times article of June 8 of that year for substantiation. Bartleby.com reports that “other newspapers of that day have variant wording.“
What seems incontrovertible are Patton’s remarks at the Palermo Allied Cemetary in 1943:
I consider it no sacrifice to die for my country. In my mind we came here to thank God that men like these have lived, rather than to regret that they have died.
With all due respect to Old Blood and Guts, this civilian–who defers in matters military to those with actual experience, but who defers in matters of the heart to no one–wishes that he could have “embraced the power of ‘And.'” And, with or without his express permission, that’s what I’ll continue to do.
I’ll mourn and honor those who died, those who didn’t come back, and those who gave their all. I’ll mourn and honor those who survived and who–for whatever reason–couldn’t come back, and still find themselves living lives of personal hell and isolation. What a loss for the world, in terms of experience, leadership skills and humanity, in both and every case.
And I’ll thank God that such heroes lived, and that some still walk among us.
Somewhere in the vast canon of the late Boss Mongo’s peerless oeuvre is a comment–made in response to a thread, perhaps even one of mine–about Memorial Day picnics and get-togethers, that those who sacrificed so much, and that those who gave their all, did so exactly that the rest of us could live, celebrate, and enjoy our lives in America, the Land of the Free. In the spirit of his comment, I choose to be grateful to them, to celebrate the freedom they died and gave their best selves for, and to honor them for that. Those who died, and those who couldn’t come back, truly were, and are, the Flowers of the Forest.
We miss them today. And we honor them today. And yes, imperfectly and as best we can, we take up the torch: