Down the street, with a lilting swing,
Each so bright that never a thing
Seems to harass, so proud were they,
One leg gone, but their hearts were gay.
Clickety clack, went the crutches’ tune
God! How can they be brave so soon?
Brave, when I cannot keep back the tears,
Thinking ahead of the crippled years.
With a rhythmic swing they passed me by,
And although, at first, I wanted to cry,
I didn’t, because on each smiling face
Was the peace of God and the pride of race!
Terry Young, representing Disabled American Veterans Chapter 27 used the poem, “The Crutches’ Tune,” by Elizabeth Stoner, which was first published in April of 1919 about returning wounded veterans of World War I, in his Memorial Day address at the Great Bend Cemetery, Monday morning.
Young also stressed the patriotic nature of the day and urged that it is more than the beginning of the summer season.
“We have a difficult but important duty today, paying homage to America’s finest heroes who gave everything in defense of our freedom.
“Difficult in that, while more than 1.2 million men and women have perished in or as a result of military conflicts, we still are able to live in a free society infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent, but all the more valuable for having been tested by adversity.
“There have been many who have sacrificed terribly to maintain our nation’s independence, our democracy.”
Memorial Day is supposed to be set aside to remember those people, Young commented. “Today we mourn the loss of these fine men and women.
“We mourn the loss of our family members, our friends, our heroes. We mourn the loss of those who have done so much to make this country great. The men and women we honor today were real people – sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and husbands. They were strong and vibrant. They loved and were loved. And they are missed.
“Today is not about celebrating the beginning of the summer season or sales at the shopping mall. Today is a solemn day of remembrance, a day that should be properly set aside for nationwide mourning.”
Moving on from this one-day celebration, Young added, it is important for America to continue to honor its veterans and to do even more than that.
“Within DAV, we have a saying: ‘The best way to honor the dead is to serve those who lived but came home sick and wounded.’
“Those who made it home often carry heavy burdens upon their shoulders. They often know they must fight on in honor of their fallen comrades, living life to the fullest in spite of severe disabling injuries or illness.”
Today, a remarkably small number of Americans — out of the entire population — is actually involved in the armed overseas conflicts, Young observed.
“Less than one percent of the population is currently serving in our nation’s military. That is far and away the smallest percentage ever for the United States during wartime.
“That is a remarkable testament to just how special today’s servicemen and servicewomen are.
“They, like so many in America’s history, are putting everything at risk for you, for me and for our future.”