This Veterans Day, I’d like us to consider what it means to ‘march to the sound of the guns.’ This military aphorism may have its roots in the Civil War or possibly World War II. It was likely first issued as a directive by a military officer; “You men! March to the sound of the guns.” Before radios and cell phones and decades prior to the instant text message, it was a very brief command to take a specific action, and it focused attention on what was important. It communicated the commander’s confidence in his countrymen in so few words. You’ll know what to do when you get there. Get into the fight!
A contemporary Veteran is a volunteer. Everyone currently serving in the U.S. Military has raised their hand of their own volition and promised to defend the Constitution and to obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over them. We do have Veterans in our midst who were drafted into the Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II. Many, against their wishes. Nonetheless, as Veterans, they will forever be remembered as those who answered the call to march to the sound of the guns. Literally and figuratively.
Voluntarily getting on the bus to travel to initial entry basic training is an anxiety-producing activity for most people, as you might well imagine. So much more so is the act of moving by foot, horseback, or by vehicle to the growing sound of a battle raging. Marching to the sound of the guns takes courage and commitment. When all of life’s trappings are stripped away, and the fight is imminent, fear is overcome by duty.
This November 4th marked the 245th anniversary of the final signature of the Declaration of Independence by a man named Matthew Thornton of New Hampshire. Altogether, 56 men inked their name to the document that sparked the Revolutionary War. That declaration concluded with the words, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Most definitely, a step towards the sound of the guns.
Our nation’s independence was seized by men with a vision of something greater than their fortunes and even their lives. It was seized by men who didn’t wait for others to act on their behalf and were willing to endure sacrifice. Pledging lives, fortunes, and sacred honor can never be a one-time sacrifice paid by their generation to secure ours. Each subsequent generation must make a similar pledge and endure sacrifice to maintain what is valuable.
There are those amongst us who naturally move to the sound of the guns. Veterans and non-veterans alike. If you’re like me, you can see the fabric of our society bursting at the seams as if prosperity has resulted in excessive, harmful self-indulgence and apathy. The battle is raging.
Our nation desperately needs more volunteers to trust in divine providence, willingly endure sacrifice, and join the march to the sound of the guns. Benjamin Franklin was 70 years old when he signed the Declaration of Independence. The youngest signer was 26-year-old Edward Rutledge. March to the sound of the guns and get into this fight! You’ll know what to do when you get there. Commit to participating in our ugly process of self-government so that future Veterans must not shed blood to regain what we willingly gave up. Duty calls!