“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.” —Franklin D. Roosevelt. While this quote was issued well before most of us were born, it is as true today as it has ever been. In this blog we have often discussed the ascendant fortunes of the U.S, refining industry and the factors that have worked to make it the most competitive in the world. Certainly one of the most important of these factors, and really the foundation for all of the others, is the free market environment in which the industry operates within the U.S. This free market, which is supported by a fair application of laws, support for private property rights, protections of intellectual property and many other important aspects, has allowed the industry to develop efficiencies and market advantages not possible in most other countries (even other developed democracies). Keeping in mind FDR’s words of so many years ago and being that today is the day after Memorial Day, we are dedicating today’s blog to the men and women who have given their lives to preserve the freedoms and privileges that have made the U.S. such a great country to live and do business in.
Memorial Day has come to signify the end of school and the beginning of summer to most of us. I’m sure much of the long weekend was devoted to backyard barbecues, time at the lake, beach or in the mountains, watching a ballgame, playing a round (or three) of golf, or simply chilling on the couch. While all (or at least some amount) of that is good, I certainly hope many of you also had the chance to participate in some of the events commemorating our fallen heroes. If not or even if you did, I also hope you will set aside some time today to reflect on their sacrifices and what they mean to the freedoms we enjoy. To help you do this I have included three of my favorite Memorial Day pieces in this blog. The first, “Dirge for Two Veterans”, is by Walt Whitman, and although the language is dated, the sentiments expressed are as powerful as when it was first published in the years following the Civil War.
“Dirge for Two Veterans”
THE last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here—and there beyond, it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.
Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the house tops, ghastly phantom moon;
Immense and silent moon.
I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles;
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.
I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring;
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.
For the son is brought with the father;
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell;
Two veterans, son and father, dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.
Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive;
And the day-light o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.
In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d;
(’Tis some mother’s large, transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)
O strong dead-march, you please me!
O moon immense, with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans, passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.
The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.
This next piece was a song made popular by one of my very favorite country singers, the late, great Merle Haggard in 1970. It was actually written during WWII by a soldier named Redd Stewart while he was on active duty in the South Pacific, with assistance from Ernest Tubb, who originally recorded the song before the war was over in 1944. I highly recommend you take the time to listen to both versions.
Soldier’s Last Letter
Redd Stewart and Ernest Tubb
When the postman delivered a letter
It filled her dear heart full of joy
But she didn’t know till she read the inside
It was the last one from her darling boy
Dear Mom, was the way that it started
I miss you so much it went on
Mom, I didn’t know, that I loved you so
But I’ll prove it when this war is won
I’m writing this down in a trench, Mom
Don’t scold if it isn’t so neat
You know as you did, when I was a kid
And I’d come home with mud on my feet
The captain just gave us our orders
And Mom, we will carry them through
I’ll finish this letter the first chance I get
But now I’ll just say I love you
Then the mother’s old hands began to tremble
And she fought against tears in her eyes
But they came unashamed for there was no name
And she knew that her darling had died
That night as she knelt by her bedside
She prayed Lord above hear my plea
And protect all the sons that are fighting tonight
And dear God keep America free
Lastly, we include a link to a song by Timothy Irvin – “After The War”. This piece, which is required listening for me every Memorial Day, captures the spirit of brotherhood and sacrifice better than anything I have ever heard. I would challenge anyone to keep a dry eye after listening to this anthem which recalls the (often very unappreciated) sacrifices made by many during the Vietnam War.
Next week we return to discussing developments and trends in the refining and overall petroleum industry in this blog. In the meantime we hope all of you had not only an enjoyable Memorial Day weekend but also one which reminded you of the Fallen Heroes to whom we owe our freedoms and privileges. Let’s not forget those Heroes or the ones which currently guard our nation and ideals through their service both stateside and overseas.