Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

“Oh, Say Can you See?”

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Remembering our Soldiers this Memorial Day Weekend

Sunday May 28, 2006

As we pause this memorial weekend, to remember the men and women who have served and are currently doing tours of duty in the armed serves, law enforcement and other agencies in our land, let us not forget those who have given their lives for their country and their communities by making the ultimate sacrifice.

Today we honor the men and women who daily and proudly put on their uniforms and give heroic and selfless service to this nation; men and women in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Air National Guard and other branches of service; men and women who serve their local communities in law enforcement and other agencies who have heard the trumpet’s call to service, who have stood on the front lines of battle; who have manned and “womaned” the trenches; who have felt the heat and taken fire; men and women, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who give through their service a measure of security against the rising tide of tyranny and terror. Men and women they are; real people of flesh and blood who hope and dream have faith and fears that laugh and cry and long to see the smiling, happy faces of their families and friends state side.

We often forget the warriors who go to war, the sacrifices they make when they go to war and whatever we feel about war itself, we must tip our hats and give thanks by honoring the warriors for their willingness to serve and stand and fight for freedom, peace, security and democracy. We take so much for granted in our land. We often forget the blood and sweat of those who serve. It is convenient to forget them, ridicule them and point accusing fingers at them, until one of our own, until our very own children come to Dover in a coffins draped with stars and stripes. We take so much for granted in our country; our way of life and our way of freedom and what it takes to preserve that life. We easily forget the warriors who have fought in the past and who fight now. We forget about soldiers in  Nam who came home to the ridicule, dishonor and disgrace of an un thankful and ungrateful nation. We can still honor the warrior if not the war. Many veterans still bear the wounds and scars of having served honorably while receiving little thanks from a nation for whom they risked life and limb.

It is so easy to forget; to assign to obscurity the uncommon valor of those who have served. Too easily we forget the warriors and the wars, the hard won battles, the bitter defeats, and the countless sacrifices generations have made. Too often and too quickly we forget.

We forget about Concord and Charlestown; Trenton and Princeton; Chickamauga and Chattanooga; Chancellorsville and Mechanicsville, Vicksburg, Fredericksburg and Gettysburg; Verdun and Versailles, Normandy, Bataan and Berlin, Korea and Saigon; the Mekong Delta, Desert Storm and Desert Shield. Too quickly we forget the warriors and the wars, the human toil and price of blood paid on human soil.

Some men and women have signed up for service because they want to fight; others have signed up for a better life. From all walks of life they come. Many from low-income families and sincerely believe by joining the armed services they have a chance at college; a chance at learning a trade or vocation; a chance at life. The armed services present a much better option for them than a dead end life on the streets and so many of them signed up thinking they could be all they could be one bright shining day.

This Memorial Day weekend we pay tribute and give honor to those countless men and women who have put on the uniform, have heard the call to battle and have made the ultimate sacrifice; men and women who given their lives in service to their country. It is altogether fitting and proper that we do this.

For where would we be were it not for these men and women? When despots and tyrants have storm trooped and goose stepped their way to power and nations cowered in paralyzing fear of terror, how could the world have come this far except that some one, some where be willing to serve and stand and fight? How could we have come this far without those who were with increased devotion willing to give their last full measure of devotion?

Where would we be without those willing to stand and fight for right? How far could we have come without Washington,

Grant, Sherman and Chamberlain, Eisenhower, Stonewall, Stillwell and Mac Arthur, Patton, Patch, Bradley and Halsey? Where would we be without Churchill, Roosevelt, Ernest King and Thomas Kincaid? How could we have come this far for Democracy and freedom without Dorey Miller and Audie Murphy, Alexander Jefferson and Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis Jr., Norman Swartzkopf, Tommy Franks and Colin Powell?

Yes, we have come this far by faith leaning on the Lord, but we have also come this far because of those who were willing to soldier.

We must remember our soldiers. Yes, we must remember them. We must remember their names and remember their families, remember their home towns and remember their childhood longings. We must remember what they gave and remember what they left behind.

Yes, we who would and would not study war no more must pay tribute to our soldiers, known and unknown, living and dead, past and future, sung and unsung. It is so easy to forget them, consign them to eternity and take them for granted.

All this weekend wreaths and flowers will be placed upon tombs and graves of soldiers throughout our land. The landscape of our national and local cemeteries will be brightly embellished with fragrant reminders of love given and love lost. The words of the poet Tennyson might be a soldier’s chorus:

Although much is taken much abides, and though, We are not now that strength which in old days moved heaven and earth, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, to strive, to seek to find and not to yield. ”

Or the soldiers refrain in the words of Paul Laurence Dunbar: “When foes upon me press, let me not quail, nor think to turn me into coward flight, I only ask to make my arms prevail, Strength for the fight!”

“Oh, say can you see.” We remember our soldiers. “Oh say can you see.” We remember their lonely days and letters home of longing; their long marches, long days and long sleepless nights. We remember their long battles against great and formidable odds; we remember their gallant charges; their shouts and screams of battle; their dying last wishes and their dog fights down to the very last man. Oh Say, Can you see! We remember our soldiers. Oh say can you see.

We remember their smiles at the dawn’s early light, the gaze in their eyes at the twilights last gleaming; the sounds of their voices when bombs burst in the air and their peculiar gate at the rockets red glare;

Oh say can you see. We remember our soldiers. We remember the mystic chords of memory and their heroic struggles on the battlefield of man at midnight, midday and twilight. We remember our soldiers. What they had and what they held, what they gave and what they lost, what they felt and what they saw. We remember them and the price they have paid for a bright and burnished freedom. Oh say, can you see by the dawn’s early light.

A letter from the battlefront from one of our soldiers:

Dear Mom and Dad:

I don’t know how long it will be but I am hoping that it won’t be too long. I miss you much and wish I were there with you. I miss the smell of burning leaves in October and fresh flowers in the spring. I miss hearing the sound of the babbling brook out back and being able to get up and go when I want and just take a peaceful stroll down the long dusty road to our house. I miss feeling the warmth of the hot sun on my face when I lay in the open field, the touch of butterflies on my dormant cheek, the fresh crisp breeze blowing through the windmills of my mind. I have grown up now. I am not the little boy you once knew who cried for everything that he wanted and jumped up and down to get his way. I have matured now, to say the least. I have seen my share of tears and death and with each dying man I have come to understand the real meaning of why we are here and why we fight. I pray to God that this war will soon end and I and other soldiers can once and finally come home again to you and our families.

How’s Mary? How are Grandpa Ed and Grandma Bessie? Have you seen or heard from cousin Earl? He sent me a picture of he and his son, but that was a while ago. I’ve not heard back from him. I miss getting letters from him and others. Letters keep us soldiers going and give us hope. Please tell him and others to keep the letters coming. I need them. I need to hear from you and know that you all are al right. It makes me feel a lot better when I know that you and dad and everyone else are alright. So tell them all to keep writing Ok? Please.

Mom and Dad, I love you very much. I am enclosing a lock of my hair in this letter for you. I don’t know, something just told me to put it in this letter for you so I am following the Spirit. I kept this hair from my first Army haircut and have been carrying it around in my bible marked on the Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear. The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid. I meant to send it to you earlier but didn’t. To be honest, I thought it was kind of corny. After shony died, I said there is no longer anything for which I need be ashamed.

I look forward to seeing you and hearing from you soon. Keep me in your prayers as I keep you in my prayers each day. Kiss each other for me and tell everyone that I love them and miss them. God’s blessings to you mom and dad. I love you.

Love always,


Tommy never came home. He died from a roadside blast one week later. Said his father,” One minute he was playing play station one, the next minute he was fighting a war.”

We salute this memorial day not only those who fight the physical fight, but those who fight the good spiritual fight; those men and women who put on not only their physical armor, but the whole armor of God. Soldiers in God’s salvation army serving on the front lines of the church and world for truth, justice, freedom and peace in our world battling tyranny and untruth every where and in every form.

We salute them today. They are the soldiers.

The Davids and Deborahs; Gideons and Joshuas; the Pauls and Peters and Stephens and Eunices.

As we pause this day in solemn remembrance of our soldiers, let us never forget to render them thanks for their service and sacrifice. These are our heroes and heroines; the men and women who put it on the line everyday at home and abroad, near and far, braving many dangers, toils and snares because they care and want the world to become a better place in which to live.

We honor them. We salute them. We pay tribute to them and hold them close in our hearts this Memorial Day weekend.

2 responses to ““Oh, Say Can you See?””

  1. Hank Glaspie Avatar

    Great message Rev. Stewart!

    Even though written in 2006, this writing could have been written this week….and it’s five years later!
    As we enter the Veteran’s Day period of 2011, the relevancy remains!
    I appreciate you referring me to your website!!
    Thanks – Hank

    1. cfstewart Avatar

      Thanks brother. Just trying to make some positive statements that will help us. Love of country and people who serve it is very deep including military, law enforcement and people like you who bring valor and integrity to the work you do.


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