Requiesce in Pace

It is Memorial Day… when we pause to honor the nation’s war dead.

Most Americans will not, of course.

It merely represents a chance to lie flat on a beach… to munch frankfurters… to dream the tall dreams of approaching summer.

We will be joining them of course.

We will not be planting tiny American flags atop forgotten graves today.

We will not be bugling taps.

It is unlikely we will thank a veteran for his service — not out of disrespect — but because we scarcely know any.

We nonetheless recall strolling the American military cemetery above Omaha Beach one day… and how it brought us up short.

The rows and rows and rows of bleach-white crosses — and an occasional Star of David — seeming to stretch from horizon to horizon.

We wandered among the dead… and listened for their ghostly counsel.

Beneath the rustling breeze, we could make out a faint murmur.

It seemed to whisper a poem from the First World War:

“In Flanders Fields.”

From which:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.


Flanders Field

Standing above Omaha Beach, what fetched us was not so much the gravity of those distant events 76 years ago — but the soul-numbing waste of it all.

What great things may have awaited that 21-year-old second lieutenant if a German bullet hadn’t cut him down on June 6, 1944?

What did life have in store for that sergeant of the 2nd Ranger Battalion… who never made it up Pointe du Hoc that morning?

What about this young paratrooper of the 101st Airborne Division, whose bones lie beneath a shady tree?


The American military cemetery above Omaha Beach

What might they have amounted to?

Perhaps much.

Perhaps nothing whatsoever.

But they had lives to live. And every right to live them.

Let us also not forget the pulverized and unidentified dead, known only to their Almighty creator.

What about the futures they never had?


“For of all sad words of tongue or pen,” lamented poet John Greenleaf Whittier, “the saddest are these:

“It might have been.”

What might have been… had they lived?

Alas, we will never know.

And so as we conclude this Memorial Day weekend…

Let us lower our heads in mournful reflection of America’s martial departed… and what might have been.

Requiescant in pace.


Brian Maher
Managing editor, The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning