–Excerpt from Guns of Verdun, by Patrick R. Chalmers
November 11, 2018, 11 A.M.
One century ago the guns of both fell silent, as did the rest of the Western Front, and Western Europe tasted peace for the first time in four years. Eastern Europe would remain embroiled in conflicts for the next five years, but for the rest of the world, the Great War was over.
Great traditions and honors, remembrances and memories have been created since the armistice, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, every year. Men and women all across the world observed this minute in silence a century later, as a way of honoring those who served, those who fought, those who lived, and those who were left behind.
For fourteen Randolph-Macon Academy cadets, that centennial minute was spent at an interfaith service in the Washington, D.C. National Cathedral, observing the moment with hundreds of others from across the country. Speakers included admirals, generals, religious leaders of all faiths, senators, representatives, and ministers. Psalms, hymns, poems and a bagpiper graced their ears, along with an organ-backed rendition of the Star Spangled Banner; a poignant and unforgettable service for all who attended.
Most of those who kept faith with those who came before, who still hold the torch thrown to us by those who rest In Flanders Fields, did not witness such an event. Most were at home, remembering to give their minute of silence before going back to their busy lives. Some were visiting cemeteries, laying flowers and wreaths for relatives, or planting flags next to the grave of an unknown soldier. Some couldn’t do so, but uttered a prayer to an ancestor in heaven on high from the bar top they worked behind. Whatever the circumstance, wherever the remembrance, however it was done, men and women who fought in the war a century ago were still remembered.
There is no single man or woman left to tell their story.. Their visages and voices linger in digital format, only scratchy voices on old tapes, their thoughts and beliefs relegated to parchment and old websites. Some skeletons may remain where they fell, still clutching a rusted rifle to their chests. It is up to the living world to keep their memory alive, and in doing so, to make sure they may live immortal, never to fade away.
One century after the supposed War to End All Wars, combat still rages all across the globe. R-MA, like many private schools of the time, added a military component specifically to train young men to stand and hold the line or build the equipment those stalwart defenders used. Today, the military program at R-MA exists not to train soldiers, but to better equip students for leadership in all avenues of life. Yet that military connection runs deep and gives a deeper meaning to moments of remembrance. For the cadets who attended the service on November 11th, pleas for peace and the end of war may never leave their souls, infusing them with a conviction and sense of duty to more than just themselves. Their decision, volunteering to attend the service, may influence them from this day onward to the day they are buried. For at the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
NOTICE OF NONDISCRIMINATORY POLICY AS TO STUDENTS Randolph-Macon Academy admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.