Traditions

Base of Custer's Monument, West Point Cemetery...

I have often said that I have much the same regard for the British army as I  have for the American. They have proved to be the staunchest allies and friends that a country could dream of having.

So I note that the British MOD has announced the units they are cutting to reduce the budget. I don’t think it’s a good idea in this troubled world but we are doing it too.

I thought I would list at least some of the units which are being disbanded.

We should notice that these are famous units, some with traditions going back 300 years. As they case their colors for the last time, this Yank, at least, wishes to honor them one last time, they will be missed. If I missed some, do feel free to append them in comments.

The following is a post of  mine that speaks of the importance of tradition, especially in the military, but for us all as well. I think it applies equally to these “Soldiers of the Queen.”

Go with God, Soldiers of Freedom.

 

Tradition can make you seem dated, sometimes, but it is always important.

No, you say. Well, I disagree, lets see why.

We live in a country where all of our public institutions: the Congress, the Presidency, the various bureaus and agencies and almost all government institutions are held in, at best, disrepute. But there is one shining exception: The United States Military. Why, because the military has kept itself to its honest purpose for more than 200 years.

This is a remarkable performance. It should be remembered that our Founding Fathers so distrusted a standing army that they abolished it once. To this day, the Army is constitutionally prohibited, alone in the federal government, from a budget exceeding two years.

I think that this is so because the military has built itself a reputation with us and especially within its own ranks that would never allow it to overstep its bounds as the guarantor of the people’s sovereignty. This is so because it is truly America’s Army. What follows is a smattering of that tradition.

In They Died with their Boots on Gary Cooper (as Custer) said it this way. “A man dies but, a regiment lives on. It has an immortal soul of its own.”

Here’s the link. Downloading is disabled.

It’s pretty hard to argue that the 7th US Cavalry doesn’t have a tradition of winning mostly, and losing gloriously. When you look at their battle honors starting from the Little Big Horn, to the Philippine Insurrection, to WWII Pacific campaign, to nearly all of the Korean Conflict to, Ia Drang, to Desert Storm, and Iraqi Freedom; I would find it difficult to call the 7th Cav anything but legendary. (They also rescued Ringo from the Sea of Monsters in The Yellow Submarine.)

You think that the current troopers sometimes think of those that have gone before? You and I both know they do, and want to live up to the legacy. That’s why the Cavalry still wears those black Stetsons, it’s Pride, writ very large.

Another institution I often speak of with regard to tradition is The United States Military Academy at West Point. Most of you know that the West Point uniform is gray. Gray in American history is the color of the militia (as well as the Confederacy), the Regular Army wore Blue. As it still does in its Dress Uniforms. This seems like an anomaly doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s rooted very deep in our history.

Since the Academy was founded on March 16, 1802 it has produced a lot of the men that have written our history: men like Grant, Lee, Eisenhower, Patton, Schwarzkopf and Petraeus. That’s all well and good, I hear you say, but about those uniforms.

Shortly after the Academy was founded we got ourselves into a little fracas with the United Kingdom; you may have heard of it, it’s called the War of 1812. It’s sometimes said that the Revolution freed us from Britain and the War of 1812 made us a Nation. There’s a lot of truth in that statement.

Anyway, like everybody else in the world we weren’t doing very well in battle with the British Regulars. Our soldiers were plenty brave but, their legs had a tendency to run away. Seems like there was something unnerving in the steady, silent advance of the British line, often playing the British Grenadier on their fifes and drums.

Probably something about those Brown Bess muskets with 2 foot bayonets attached, too.

A young general by the name of Winfield Scott got a hold of a bunch of these troops and trained them up to the British standard and took them off to Canada. They got attacked by the British at a place called Lundy’s Lane and for the first time stood up to a British charge in the open field. They were mostly regulars but, the service of supply being what is was (bad) in those days they had gotten uniformed as militia, in gray.

But standing up to the regulars was such an unprecedented feat that the USMA adopted militia gray as its uniform as a tribute, as it still is, to the coming of age of the US Army.

Actually, nobody, except maybe the Marine Corps, does tradition as well as West Point. Back on May 12, 1962, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur gave his farewell speech to the corps of cadets. We have all heard about the “Long Gray Line” part. But there is more, quite a lot more actually, all in MacArthur’s typical flowery prose. Here it is:

General Westmoreland, General Groves, distinguished guests, and gentlemen of the Corps. As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, “Where are you bound for, General?” and when I replied, “West Point,” he remarked, “Beautiful place, have you ever been there before?”

No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this, coming from a profession I have served so long and a people I have loved so well. It fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily for a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code – the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the meaning of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always.

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and, I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

But these are some of the things they do. They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation’s defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.

They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for action; not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm, but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future, yet never neglect the past; to be serious, yet never take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness; the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

They give you a temperate will, a quality of imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory?

Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man at arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefields many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then, as I regard him now, as one of the world’s noblest figures; not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless.

His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give. He needs no eulogy from me, or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast.

But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements.

In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people.

From one end of the world to the other, he has drained deep the chalice of courage. As I listened to those songs of the glee club, in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs on many a weary march, from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle deep through mire of shell-pocked roads; to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always for them: Duty, Honor, Country. Always their blood, and sweat, and tears, as they saw the way and the light.

And twenty years after, on the other side of the globe, against the filth of dirty foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts, those boiling suns of the relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms, the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails, the bitterness of long separation of those they loved and cherished, the deadly pestilence of tropic disease, the horror of stricken areas of war.

Their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory – always victory, always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men, reverently following your password of Duty, Honor, Country.

The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong. The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training – sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him. However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country, is the noblest development of mankind.

You now face a new world, a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres and missiles marked the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind – the chapter of the space age. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a greater, a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier. We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; of purifying sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundred of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

And through all this welter of change and development your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purpose, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishments; but you are the ones who are trained to fight.

Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country.

Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men’s minds. But serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation’s war guardians, as its lifeguards from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiators in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government. Whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as firm and complete as they should be.

These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a tenfold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the Nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds.

The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

This does not mean that you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished – tone and tints. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen then, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.

In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the Corps, and the Corps, and the Corps.

I bid you farewell.

I have not the words to add to that except, to say, that we would all do well to read and take to heart GEN MacArthur’s words as they apply to us, and then forearmed in our knowledge of the right, to live them.

Traditions.

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About NEO
Lineman, Electrician, Industrial Control technician, Staking Engineer, Inspector, Quality Assurance Manager, Chief Operations Officer

4 Responses to Traditions

  1. JessicaHof says:

    I was cheering like anything when I saw this – hooray – and time someone said it. As the wife of a serving army officer (obviously can’t say which regiment as he’s on duty now) I cheered this to the echo. I WISH our rulers would read it and take note.
    The one area of our public life where integrity and honour are still to be found as standard is the military – yes Sir! These boys (and some of those my husband commands are little more than that) put their lives on the line; the live lives of self-discipline and self-denial for months on end, for no thanks from most of the public and hollow thanks from the politicians who sack them just before they’d be due a big redundancy pay out. It is great that you post these words – I have emailed them to Afghanistan – where the military censor will, I suspect, be hollering as I am. Thank you SO much for this. :)

    Like

    • You are more than welcome. They indeed are our repositories of honor and integrity. In our case, it’s partly still another debt that we owe the Mother Country.

      I hope he does, and further although I didn’t mention them in the post, it was already too long, I include the Canadians and the Anzacs in that sentiment as well. Wonderful people, the very best of our nations.

      Like

      • JessicaHof says:

        Yes indeed. I’ll report back when I get something from him. As everything goes via some military censor it normally takes time – but I somehow think this one may go straight through :)

        Like

        • I hope so, and will be interested in his reaction. :)

          Like

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