Veteran in a Foreign Land

There is a cemetery just over the Massachusetts line, coming from southern New Hampshire. As old graveyards go, it’s pretty standard fare for an old New England town. The stones are mostly slate, cool and a dark silver-blue.

Many years ago, a good friend of mine took me there on an overcast Veteran’s Day to see something unusual. Something easily over looked by the casual observer. As we walked out onto the mown grass, dotted with brown and crunchy leaves, we stepped carefully along the rows of stone and loss. Here and there, a place was left empty in the lines of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. Places where the markers had fallen to the earth and been swallowed up by the passing of time. As is usual in these places, little flags flew at the foot of many of the stones. Men who had joined up to fight for their country in its many hours of need. The small banners of red white and blue fluttered silently in the early November breeze.

I looked with some interest at the various inscriptions to see where and when these brave souls served. Some had been in the War of 1812; some white marble stones showed the resting places of those who had gone to fight against the Confederate States during the American Civil War. Several were veterans of the Revolution of 1776. The original American Patriots.

As we rounded a row of leaning stones, a small flag caught my eye. My friend was already standing there looking down and reading the inscription. Here lay the mortal remains of a man who had served his country and died while in its service. He had not been killed in action but must have succumbed from an accident or illness. The stone told us little more than his name, rank, age and unit he served with. The diminutive Union Jack fluttered proudly. Here lay a junior officer of the Royal British Army, having passed away in a land far from home and his roots. He had died in 1772, a loyal subject of his Majesty, the King of England.


With his hour of passing, this man had missed so much suffering and conflict that was to come. Where he would have wound up, is pure speculation. Would he have been true to his station and employ? Would he have fought the Rebels with his all or, like many who had lived here among the colonists for so long, would he have defected from the ranks and become a quiet farmer with land of his own to plow? Who is to know?

What was left is a tastefully decorated slate, leaning with time and a small British flag placed by those whom he would never know. It flies among the flags of a country that he would never live to see emerge. Today is Veteran’s Day and today, I shall remember him. Though his name has slipped my mental grasp, I’ll imagine him walking happily along on a sunny day, long, long ago. Down a cart path and into the village he would go, thinking how full of marvel and opportunity this new land was.

3 Responses

  1. I have such mixed feelings about remembrance days. On one hand it saddens me, no end when I think about their sacrifice and on the other it makes me angry that young men are so quick and easy to jump into war.

    While it’s important to defend one’s country from aggressors, the same people can be used, and quite often are, to cause grief in other countries for very spurious and quite often economic reasons.

    As my Grandfather is fond of saying, “Economics rule the world.” He’s right too. The foundation of every war ever fought is economic. If it didn’t make money, we would never do it. Naturally, that’s a massive over simplification, but I think it rings true.

    The comment about young men jumping to fight is very true as well. After watching “Saving Private Ryan”, I walked out of the theater red eyed and reflective. I remember turning to my wife and saying that every single 16 year old on the planet should be made to watch that. War is not about glory, king or country. It’s about death and horror. As they say, “War is failure”.

  2. Very nice photo and sentiment.

    (BTW – I really like your Thanksgiving banner. V nice)

    Thanks. It’s amazing to think what he missed.
    (as for the banner, I wonder if the turkey can wrestle the blunderbuss out of his hands?!)

  3. Turkeys are strong, but not very clever.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: