Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day: Kemal Ataturk on Gallipoli

For Memorial Day, today and tomorrow I'll be posting poems and quotations about war and warriors. While Memorial Day is an American holiday that originated to honor Civil War dead, I'm not going to limit myself to American writings. Courage and honor know no national boundaries.

I'll start with Kemal Ataturk's tribute to the ANZAC soldiers who fell at Gallipoli in WWI. At the time of the battle, Ataturk was a lieutenant-colonel commanding Turkish infantry opposing the ANZAC troops. Years later, as the founding father and first president of modern Turkey, this is what he had to say about his former enemies. And if you can read it with dry eyes, you're made of sterner stuff than I am.

"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours... You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well."

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