Lost Potential

One day, not too long ago, I was reading about J. R. R. Tolkein, who survived the trenches of World War I and drew on their horrors when describing the Dead Marshes. I thought of how the world would be different if a bullet had been a few feet from its mark and all he was to create vanished in a spray of blood and bone. I thought of Earnest Hemingway, who narrowly missed death from a mortar shell. I thought of my second cousin, who almost vanished from the world, along with the children he would have, on the beaches of Normandy.

For the United States alone, 1.3 million men and women have had their stories cut short — left their novels unwritten, their children unborn, their monuments unbuilt. A city of people roughly the size of San Antonio have seen all that they were, all that they could have been, taken away in an instant. But it is that loss, that sacrifice that makes all of our stories possible — that allows our children to be born, our novels to be written, our monuments to be built, our potential to be met.

The only way to repay that debt is to live the lives they couldn’t and be worthy of them. And to read the stories of those who’ve gone.

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  1. Screamin

    Just a note of thanks from a grateful civilian to all those who served both on this site and around the world. Thank you.

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  2. CM

    So many sobering thoughts, especially when you dig into the details. We have our Memorial Day on April 25 (ANZAC Day – the date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.).

    World War 1 was particularly harsh on us too….here are some stats:

    • The total population of New Zealand in 1914 was just over one million.
    • In all, 120,000 New Zealanders enlisted, of whom 103,000 served overseas.
    • At least 3370 New Zealanders served in the Australian or imperial forces, winning four Victoria Crosses.
    • A total of 18,500 New Zealanders died in or because of the war, and nearly 50,000 more were wounded. More than 2700 died at Gallipoli and 12,500 on the Western Front.


    So around 12% of our entire population enlisted. A very high percentage of those that were capable. Almost 2% of our population died in or because of the war.

    New Zealand had the highest casualty and death rate per capita of any country involved in the war.


    The general consensus is that prior to the war we were simply another British colony, but after the war we had earnt the right to consider ourselves a country in our own right. These days memorial services on ANZAC Day are attended in greater numbers than they have ever been.

    As a result of the Gallipoli campaign (and largely because of the amazing Atatürk) our country has a ‘special relationship’ with Turkey.

    In Turkey the name “ANZAC Cove” was officially recognised by the Turkish government on Anzac Day in 1985. In 1934, Kemal Atatürk delivered the following words to the first Australians, New Zealanders and British to visit the Gallipoli battlefields. This was later inscribed on a monolith at Ari Burnu Cemetery (ANZAC Beach) which was unveiled in 1985. The words also appear on the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, Canberra, and the Atatürk Memorial in Wellington, New Zealand:[35]

    “Those heroes that shed their blood
    And lost their lives.
    You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
    Therefore rest in peace.
    There is no difference between the Johnnies
    And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side
    Here in this country of ours.
    You, the mothers,
    Who sent their sons from far away countries
    Wipe away your tears,
    Your sons are now lying in our bosom
    And are in peace
    After having lost their lives on this land they have
    Become our sons as well.”


    What an amazing sentiment. We were invading them and yet our fallen are considered to be no different to theirs.

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  3. Hal_10000 *

    Didn’t know you were a kiwi! My Aussie father-in-law is big on Anzac Day. His opinion is that the British simply didn’t care if they burned up Aussies in Galipoli.

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  4. loserlame

    Theres Veterans Day, too, which is supposed to celebrate those who survived the wars, which altered their lives – “Hey, baby killer” :Die, you war-for-oil pig”

    Some vets do see the light, or darkness of war, like Iraq War vet Mike Prysner of March Forward, who bravely protests Obamas renewed wars for oil

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