Fr. Paul McNellis, SJ, philosophy professor at Boston College and Vietnam veteran Green Beret, posted the following at the Democracy Project. It’s a letter from an Army reserve chaplain, Maj. Jim Higgins, about an experience he had last May.
I recently attended a showing of “Spiderman 3” here at LSA Anaconda. We have a large auditorioum we use for movies as well as memorial services and other large gatherings. As is the custom back in the States, we stood and snapped to attention when the National Anthem began before the main feature. All was going as planned until about three-quarters of the way through the National Anthem the music stopped.
Now, what would happen if this occurred with 1,000 18-22 year-olds back in the States? I imagine there would be hoots, catcalls, laughter, a few rude comments, and everyone would sit down and call for a movie. Of course, that is, if they had stood for the National Anthem in the first place.
Here, the 1,000 Soldiers continued to stand at attention, eyes fixed forward.
The music started again. The Soldiers continued to quietly stand at attention. And again, at the same point, the music stopped. What would you expect to happen? Even here I would imagine laughter as everyone sat down and expected the movie to start.
Here, you could have heard a pin drop. Every Soldier stood at attention. Suddenly there was a lone voice, then a dozen, and quickly the room was filled with the voices of a thousand Soldiers:
And the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
It was the most inspiring moment I have had here in Iraq. I wanted you to know what kind of Soldiers are serving you here.
They know what they’re over there for. Makes you proud that you have such men and women and serving you in the cause of freedom and defense.