Thursday, October 15, 2020 submission by Dave Sargeant.
Hingham’s citizens will not gather in Sanborn Auditorium this year on Veterans Day as they, most likely, will be home and sheltered from COVID-19 to witness the ceremony on virtual TV. The few that are at Town Hall will be masked to protect themselves while we combat a pandemic the likes of which haven’t been experienced since the last great one, the Spanish Flu, which coincidently struck the country near the end of “The War to End All Wars”, WWI. On November 11, 1918 the armistice was signed to bring hostilities to an end but not without the loss of 116,516 American servicemen and women making it one of the deadliest in world history. Until 1954 this day was known as Armistice Day when it was redesignated Veterans Day to honor all veterans.
Customarily beginning at 10:50AM bells are rung 21 times in towns and cities across the country. The number originates from naval tradition when a warship would fire its cannons harmlessly out to sea, until ammunition was spent, to show that it was disarmed, signifying the lack of hostile intent. It is an ancient ceremony traced to the Middle Ages practice that one has been placed in an unarmed position and, therefore in the honor of those being honored of those being honored. The practice of firing an odd round of 3 is said to have been a way of economizing gun powder. The procedure was changed due to the lack of sodium nitrate, from whence gunpowder came, which was easier to keep dry and on land.
And then there’s the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, built shortly after WWI in 1921. It is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, every second of every minute while guards pace their 21 steps on the Tomb with total disregard of the weather.
Veterans of more recent wars will take notice of this peaceful resonation and take pride in the sacrifices that they and their families made in defense of this great country. More recent hostilities have required deployments to numerous locations such as Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Kosovo, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan and these are only the locales of which we are aware.
There are those veterans among us who are known as members of the so-called “Generation of the Damned,” who in the 60’s were damned if they did or didn’t answer the call. They are your neighbors, friends, and associates who lived and experienced the turmoil of those years. Some of them were the “Damned That Did” and offered themselves to honor the fiduciary obligation handed down to them by the veterans of WWI, WWII and the Korean Wars. They answered the call yet on their return were welcomed by a less than appreciative nation. They had to learn how to be a veteran and for some it took as long as 40 years and for some maybe never.
Veterans of that era had to be reminded, or taught once again, of the soldiers’ creed, “Leave No Man Behind”, which stems from the French and Indian War and freshened in our minds by the event at Mogadishu and its depiction in “Blackhawk Down”. I hasten to add that the creed for decades has overlooked our sister combatants who should be included and have been “left behind”.
There are opportunities for the “Generation of the Damned” in our Town to learn how to be a veteran. They can now wear a baseball cap designating their service and sacrifices during the 60’s. They can now, after decades, wear a ribbon they so long chose not to and they no longer need to be “Left Behind”. They can have their pride, so long deprived and deserved, instilled. By doing so, they can choose to “Honor the Dead by Assisting the Living”. I offer that Hingham provides a multitude of opportunities to carry out this mission and for all the support that the Town provides veterans and those on active duty the Town is owed a veteran’s effort to “…assist the living”. This is especially true for those who have returned to her from all over the globe where they sacrificed so much to protect our country and our freedoms. To those we salute you. As you have honored the creed while in uniform, you can as well, honor it out of uniform. Lest we forget, you are those who know succinctly that “Freedom has a taste that the protected will never know”.
Thank you and your families for your incredible sacrifice and suffering and have a peaceful and reflective day on November 11, 2020, 102 years after “The War to End All Wars”.
May freedom ring on that day!