President Benjamin Harrison in 1889 on appreciating American veterans

“I had impressions both pleasurable and painful as I looked upon the great procession of veterans which swept through the streets of this historic capital to-day; pleasurable in the contemplation of so many faces of those who shared together the perils and glories of the great struggle for the Union; sensations of a mournful sort as I thought how seldom we should meet again. Not many times more here. As I have stood in the great National Cemetery at Arlington and have seen those silent battalions of the dead, I have thought how swiftly the reaper is doing his work and how soon in the scattered cemeteries of the land the ashes of all the soldiers of the great war shall be gathered to honored graves. And yet I could not help but feel that in the sturdy tread of those battalions there was yet strength of heart and limb that would not be withheld if a present peril should confront the Nation that you love. And if Arlington is the death, we see to-day in the springing step of those magnificent battalions of the Sons of Veterans the resurrection. They are coming on to take our places; the Nation will not be defenseless when we are gone, but those who have read about the firesides of the veterans’ homes, in which they have been born and reared, the lessons of patriotism arid the stories of heroism will come fresh armed to any conflict that may confront us in the future.”

“And so to-night we may gather from this magnificent spectacle a fresh and strong sense of security for the permanency of our country and our free institutions. I thought it altogether proper that I should take a brief furlough from official duties at Washington to mingle with you here to-day as a comrade, because every President of the United States must realize that the strength of the Government, its defense in war, the army that is to muster under its banner when our nation is assailed, is to be found here in the masses of our people. And so, as my furlough is almost done, and the train is already waiting that must bear me back to Washington, I can only express again the cordial, sincere, and fraternal interest which I feel this day in meeting you all. I can only hope that God will so order the years that are left to you that for you and those who are dear to you they may be ordered in all gentleness and sweetness, in all prosperity and success, and that, when at last the comrades who survive you shall wrap the flag of the Union about your body and bear it to the grave, you may die in peace and in the hope of a glorious resurrection.”

President Benjamin Harrison, August 12, 1889

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