The Faces of One Thousand Dead


When you are the parent or spouse or sibling, one is too many. 1000 college students commit suicide each year. It is a figure I heard when that last NY student jumped from a building. No one drapes the coffin or speaks of their patriotism, but their families grieve just the same.

Just this year I learned how my uncle died 60 years ago in WWII in the China Burma India theater (burned to death because of a stupid, irresponsible commander). I'm glad my mother and grandparents are gone so they never had to know the real story. They were pacifists, but probably hoped that his death had had meaning.

"At the end of the Battle of Loos 20.000 British soldiers were lost, and the Kiplings received the feared War Office telegram to say that their boy was wounded and missing. Rudyard had little doubt about the meaning of this, but his wife Carrie continued to hope desperately. These were the years when he, full of guilt, wrote:

If any ask us why we died
Tell them 'Because our fathers lied'.

He also wrote a poem: "Have You News of my Boy Jack?," that became famous.

After the war Kipling visited the battlefields and wargraves in Flanders, but the author never saw his son's grave. The body of John seemed to be lost for ever. Kipling died in 1936. (The body of his son was eventually found in 1992. It lay in the grave of an 'unknown Irish lieutenant' on plot 7 in St. Mary's Dressing Station Cemetery the Haimes, at Lone Tree, near Loos. On the grave now stands a new headstone bearing John Kipling's name.)" Story>

Kipling's writings and verse had glorified war. The "fathers" in this passage was indeed, a particular father, Kipling himself.