The Last of a Generation: The End of the Great War

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MSNBC reported today that the last known veteran of World War I has passed away.  This marks an end of an era, one that is profound in it's impact on the world at large.  When I read the headline, I was struck by that remark.  The war that was supposed to end all wars now lost it's last living representative.

We live in a world of, what seems, constant war with the United States currently in Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya at war with herself, the Middle East clamoring for freedom.  It seems that everyone wants to get a piece of the world as their own, or dominate someone else.  It's so easy to get caught up in the world stage that the cost of war is often lost.  WWI was supposed to change all that, as the League of Nations was to be the governing body that would mediate any differences between nations.

The Great War, was it was called, has always fascinated me.  The circumstances that lead to it, the managing of the war, and the 20 year peace in between that changed the world without the world knowing.  It was supposed to be a war of Gentlemen, yet those gentlemen were mostly slaughtered.  Americans were late coming to the war, and though I would like to think we had a hand in bringing it to a swift conclusion, we didn't feel the loss that Europe felt.

And now, all those with a living memory of fighting in the war have passed away.  Debt from the war lingers, scars on the old battlefields linger, but memories fade.  Just like that.  It's sad, because when the memory fades and history (or historians) are allowed to write their own versions of events, we risk repeating those same mistakes.

Personally, I felt a loss when I read that Claude Stanley Choules of Western Australia passed away.  Not because I knew who he was, but because of what he represents.  He represents the last man to know of the senseless slaughter WWI had caused.  In reading the article, I saw that he was a pacifist, and refused to march in veteran parades to commemorate wars.  To me, that speaks volumes to the reasons of WWI.

I fully support our service men and women, because they are all dedicated to protecting our country and the freedoms we enjoy.  I support their efforts to bring peace, prosperity, and freedom to others are they are instructed, either rightly or wrongly, by our leaders.  But most of all, I see them as living reminders of the cost of war.  They should be a living reminder to those who would make war, to remind them that just because a cause seems just, it needs to be worth the cost if it is to be right.

To all our service men and women out there, I want you to know that my family does pray for you, to keep you safe in your duties, and to return you home to your own families, whole and unharmed.  And to the family of Claude Stanley Choules, I want to give you my condolences, for his is a significant loss for the World.  One can only hope that we have learned something from his constant, silent reminder.