Veterans Day 2013: Where Do We Find Such Men?

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In recognition of Veterans Day, I'd like to call your attention to a new book, Where Do We Find Such Men?, published in May by Robert N. Going, about the men of his hometown, Amsterdam, N. Y., who served our country during World War II.

Going scoured through his hometown newspaper from 1940 through 1946 and assembled a chronicle of his townsmen's bravery. These men were heroes at Saipan, at Guadalcanal, at Omaha Beach, and those that made it back lived quiet, modest lives as husbands, fathers, factory workers, and shopkeepers.

The title came from this excerpts from President Ronald Reagan's radio address on Armed Forces Day 1982.

In James Michener's book "The Bridges at Toko-Ri," he writes of an officer waiting through the night for the return of planes to a carrier as dawn is coming on. And he asks, "Where do we find such men?" Well, we find them where we've always found them. They are the product of the freest society man has ever known. They make a commitment to the military--make it freely, because the birthright we share as Americans is worth defending. God bless America.

The question in the title brings to mind a chapter from C. S. Lewis's book The Abolition of Man, entitled Men without Chests. Lewis wrote in 1943 about an educational philosophy that ridiculed the importance of training sentiment, a philosophy that would make it harder to find such men in future:

Let us suppose for a moment that the harder virtues could really be theoretically justified with no appeal to objective value. It still remains true that no justification of virtue will enable a man to be virtuous. Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. I had sooner play cards against a man who was quite sceptical about ethics, but bred to believe that 'a gentleman does not cheat', than against an irreproachable moral philosopher who had been brought up among sharpers. In battle it is not syllogisms that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of the bombardment. The crudest sentimentalism... about a flag or a country or a regiment will be of more use. We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the 'spirited element'. "The head rules the belly through the chest" -- the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment -- these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal....

And all the time -- such is the tragi-comedy of our situation -- we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more 'drive', or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or 'creativity'. In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

Thankfully, when the world needed men to free it from fascism, such men who would risk all for the sake of family, hometown, and country could still be found in abundance. And although mainstream modern culture ridicules and devalues sentiments like patriotism, men and women of patriotic sentiment can still be found, ready to serve our country. May America never lack their like.

Here is Going's first public presentation about the book, from earlier this month:

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Graychin said:

Where do we find such men (and women)?

It might help if service to the nation was a national ethic, not just something for "the few, the proud."

If memory serves, the last president to invite us (all of us) to national service was JFK with his now-famous: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

We never needed a reminder to go shopping. We would have done that anyway.

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