Eckart: Strive for just, lasting peace
Corydon resident Charles Eckart recalled reporting to his first duty unit in an airborne company in Germany as a new second lieutenant, fresh out of ranger school.
‘After the usual orientations, my platoon sergeant drew me aside and told me that his mission was to make me as successful as I could possibly be, if only I would let him,’ said Eckart, a 1965 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who retired as a colonel, as he spoke Saturday morning at the Veterans Day program hosted by Old Capitol VFW Post 2950 at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Corydon.
And while voters last week chose a new president who has no military experience, in what he called a ‘very difficult election,’ Eckart said, ‘We are hoping and praying now that President-elect Trump will also have a good platoon sergeant to help make him as successful.’
After earning a master’s degree at Indiana University, Eckart became an assistant professor of English at West Point. Among other things, he has served the admissions department at West Point since 1995, helping high school seniors enter the Academy. He is involved with the nonprofit group Veterans of Harrison County Inc. that was started to promote and raise the interest of veterans in the county.
Eckart said he heard the definition of a veteran from a fourth-grade student on Friday during a Veterans Day program at one of the elementary schools.
‘If you ever really want a straight answer to a question, just ask a fourth grader,’ he said. ‘But it was good to think about that answer from a fresh perspective.’
According to the student, as relayed by Eckart, a veteran could be a man or woman, in peacetime or wartime, today or 100 years ago, around here or in one of the far-flung corners in another country.
‘And it did not matter in what capacity you served,’ Eckart said. ‘The critical component was that the person had served our country as a member of the armed forces.’
Eckart said he has to chuckle when someone accuses soldiers of being warmongers.
‘Quite the contrary,’ he said. ‘The solider, above all other people, prays for peace, for they alone must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war when they serve in that capacity.
‘Plato once said that ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war.’ And today, we’re finding that psychological wounds can be just as devastating as the physical ones as we lose 22 of our brothers and sisters every day,’ Eckart said.
As a soldier returning to the states from Vietnam, Eckart said he was spit on and ignored.
‘Today, while we have other serious issues as our veterans return from combat, America is beginning to appreciate the horrible sacrifices that many of our soldiers are called upon to make while just serving their country,’ he said.
Eckart told those gathered at the cemetery that Abraham Lincoln had reminded Americans, following the ‘long, difficult struggle in the Civil War,’ that we should show malice toward no one and have charity for all people.
‘That, even though it is more difficult, we should hold firm for what is right as God lets us discern that right,’ he said. ‘He challenged us to strive on to finish the work that probably will never be completed. To bind up the nation’s wounds and do all within our power to achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among other nations but also with ourselves.
‘I think nothing could be more true today,’ Eckart concluded. ‘We need to ask ourselves over and over, ‘Oh, say? Does that star-spangled banner yet wave? Over the land of the free and the home of the brave?’
‘We have dedicated ourselves to ensure that it does,’ he said. ‘Let us not surrender that dedication. God bless America.’