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When you go home, tell them of us and say, ‘For your tomorrow we gave our today.’ (The Kohima Prayer)
ICMR Releases “Universality of Remembrance Book”
By Dr. Cedrick Edgecombe, Ph. D. Free-Lance Writer
Veterans Day is upon us, lending itself to reflection upon Life and Death, the sacrifice of he, who in defense of the Nation is willing to pay the ultimate price for Liberty and Freedom, to surrender self, so that others may live. It is, thus, the Soldier, the noblest development of mankind, that Pericles endeavored to enshrine in our collective memory and hearts in his famed Funeral Oration, when he stated: “For heroes have the whole earth for their tomb; and in lands far from their own, where the column with its epitaph declares it, there is enshrined in every breast a record unwritten with no tablet to preserve it, except that of the heart.”
Now, the Soldier is, at last, about to be enshrined in an eternal monument, long overdue: “An International Day of Remembrance of the Soldier.” The “Universality of Remembrance Book,” an e-book, this month released by the “International Consultative Mechanism on Remembrance” (ICMR) and the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, contains important contributions by senior Generals from Armed Forces the world over, veterans, families, leading politicians and important civil society stakeholders, coming together in the spirit of “Universal Remembrance.”
“The concept of the “Universality of Remembrance” allows us as brothers in arms --- and as citizens of the world --- an important opportunity to express the sacrifice of patriots of all nations,” states General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA, Vice Chief of Staff Army. “As we remember our Fallen, in countries the world over, I hope I can give light to a common cause. That we choose to pursue an idea. An idea whose time has come. An idea that transcends the pliability of politics. But instead brings to light the consensus of remembrance on behalf of those who have given the last full measure of devotion.”
A sentiment echoed by Major-General Tom Knutsen, the Royal Norwegian Defense Attaché and Dean of the Defense Attaches Corps, who states: “We have, as military men, a lot in common. We share the same hardships when our countries send us out to do what militaries always have been doing: laying down our lives for the benefit of others; and we share the same professional camaraderie and bonding between men of arms that are universal and which transcend borders.” States Merrilee Carlson, Chair of Families United for Our Troops and Their Mission, whose son, Sergeant Michael Curtis Carlson, USA, rests in peace eternal at Arlington National Cemetery: “Remembrance brings sadness – sadness for all that has been lost and or destroyed. But, in remembering the good, recognizing the cost, in remembering the smiles and the hugs and the new friendships, we look with hope to the future. Hope that one day no mother’s son will ever have to die in defense of their country while we remain secure in the knowledge that if needed, that son will offer his service.”
The ICMR is an informal consultative mechanism between stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental, to explore the feasibility and desirability of advancing the concept of “Universal Remembrance” in furtherance of a new “Culture of Remembrance.” It convenes at the initiative of Mrs. Francis S. Drath, widow of the late Colonel Francis S. Drath, USA, who served as Deputy Director of the United States Selective Service System under General Lewis B. Hershey, and grandmother of 2nd Lieutenant William F. Dwyer III, West Point Class of 2008, who serves with the 3rd Infantry Division. An award-winning journalist, author, acclaimed playwright, noted academic and respected Presidential advisor, Mrs. Drath ranks among the Nation’s leading patriotic citizens, whose selfless work on behalf of the Nation’s troops, veterans and military families has been commended by the President, the Vice President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and which culminated in her appointment to the White House Commission on Remembrance in 2006. General George W. Casey, USA, Chief of Staff Army and a fellow-member of the White House Commission on Remembrance, states: “Mrs. Drath’s unwavering commitment to our troops and families is awe-inspiring and deserves our full support.”
In proclaiming that “in remembrance, no matter how horrific the memory lies the seed for hope that the Fallen’s sacrifice not be in vein, nor forgotten,” Mrs. Drath points out that “Remembrance knows no limitations in space, nor time.” In stating that “by sharing remembrance with other nations, across national boundaries, the soldier is shouldering individual grief in advance of collective healing, across the battlefield’s divide,” she expands the very concept of Remembrance, which to many rests at the national level. However, given the moral principles inherent in what she calls the act of “active remembrance,” i.e. “Commemoration of the Fallen” and “Celebration of the Living,” Mrs. Drath points the way towards a bold new move, together, to express the sacrifice of patriots of all nations. General Chiarelli states: “We in the United States are riveted by our own losses – but rarely look beyond our borders to see or feel the toil of our Iraqi brothers. The Iraqi soldiers and police who have given their lives in defense of an idea – who have fought, trained, sweat, and bled with the soldiers of the Coalition – are the noblest of souls. ”
In April, Mrs. Drath led the Nation and her Allies in observances to mark Iraq Liberation Day at Arlington National Cemetery. On Veterans Day, the grande dame of Washington power politics will convene the “Universal Remembrance Convocation” in the Nation’s Capital City, which will include a concert at Saint Matthew’s Cathedral and a conference to build on the momentum being gained by ICMR in support of troops, veterans and military families. All concert tickets are free of charge to U.S. and Allied veterans, troops and families through the Berlin Air Lift Diamond Jubilee Committee. (www.BerlinAirlift-DiamondJubilee.org)
“It may be worth considering that the term ‘Patriot’ - as we look through the lens of the ‘Universality of Remembrance’ – be broadened to those beyond the role as soldier,” General Chiarelli says. “There are patriots outside the ranks who have put their lives at risk for the good of their nation’s future. One who will never be erased from my mind was a good friend of mine, Ali Al-Haidari. Ali Al-Haidari was the Governor of the Baghdad Province – brutally gunned down on the streets of Baghdad in early January of 2005. Ali Al-Haidari knew the risks – but chose to continue to govern because he saw the light of what Iraq could become. Ali Al Haidari missed those first free elections later that month, but his memory and his sacrifice will live on in me, forever.”
The “Universal Remembrance Convocation” will figure prominently a high-level Iraqi General Officer Delegation, led by General Radhi Dahham al-Assal, the Military Advisor to the Minister of Defense of Iraq. Mrs. Drath views the Iraq experience central to exploring the efficacy of Remembrance in advance of post-conflict reconciliation, peace and understanding among the Peoples of the World. States General Dahham: “I thank Mrs. Drath for her important initiative to advance Friendship and Cooperation among all Nations. Iraq helps lend perspective to what "universality of remembrance" can, by design and must, of necessity, entail. Americans and Iraqis are partners for peace and democracy. The partnership in eternal life so nobly enshrined in the joint grave at Arlington National Cemetery of an Iraqi hero, Iraqi Air Force Captain Ali Abass Alrubaeye, interred alongside an American hero, USAF Capt Derek Argel, alongside their comrades, Captain Jeremy Fresques, Major William Downs, and Sergeant Casey Crate. For our tomorrow, they gave their today. Derek, Ali Abass, Jeremy, William and Casey are often on our minds. And in our hearts, always. The Government of Iraq is pleased that Mrs. Drath has placed the joint grave into the center of what universal remembrance can be and I shall be honored, on behalf of the Government of Iraq, to lay a wreath at the joint grave on Veterans Day.”
General Dahham stresses that remembrance is about keeping the memory of the Fallen alive. “I salute Mrs. Drath for forcing us to remember the Fallen by Name, lest he become a faceless statistic. It is important not only that we keep alive the Fallen's memory, but that the sacrifices made by those young men and women to preserve our freedoms are understood by the youth of today. We must turn our eyes to our youth and raise awareness of remembrance through education and information. The Remembrance Conference this fall, bringing together all stakeholders, is an important first step on the joint journey, ahead. The Government of Iraq is pleased to support international initiatives towards that end.”
The ICMR is to be commended for its valiant effort on behalf of Soldiers for, indeed, the Soldier’s profession is unique. His commitment to service transcends self-interest to the point of self-sacrifice. Who better to put the thought to paper than a distinguished Englishman. “Remembrance must be part of the unspoken contract between the people of a country and the men and women who are prepared to put themselves into harm’s way to defend the national interest,” states Dominick Chilcott, the Deputy British Ambassador in Washington, who is widely acclaimed for his speeches of signal-import. “There is no greater sacrifice an individual can make on behalf of his countrymen and women than to lay down his life for them, whether it is to remove an evil dictator who threatens international peace and security, like Saddam Hussein, or to deal with a direct threat or aggression against one’s own country, as the US had to after 9/11 and we did in 1982 in the Falkland Islands. Those brave individuals who join up know the risks and dangers they will face. But they also need to know that if they do lose their lives, their country will not forget them. More than that, their country will honor their memory, their achievements and their sacrifice.”
The “Universality of Remembrance Book” is a must read for Patriots the world over. Never Forget.