by Charles Henry Brent
Medals that adorn the uniform tell of courage and endurance and heroism that braved the worst for the cause. Their wearers live to hear the acclaim of their comrades. But there is another decoration, the commonest even though the most distinguished of all: the Wooden Cross that is awarded only to the men who have done the greatest thing that man – yes, even God – can do.
Yonder they lie, along that front where with face to the foe they counted not their lives dear unto themselves but bore the standard of liberty onward. Above their graves rise the sheltering arms of the rough-hewn cross, than which no fitter monument ever reared its form over mortal remains.
Our comrades they were. Our comrades they are. Death was powerless in the face of their bold daring to rob us of them or them of us. They are separated now from us, not by the gaping gulf of time but by a veil so thin that at times we almost see their figures through its waving folds. They live – live gloriously in the land of far distances. Death stripped them of nothing essential. In the permanent society of the world beyond this they think and speak and see and love. They are what they were, except so far as the river of death has washed away the dust of earth and left them cleaner and better by reason of this their last great adventure.
The same dauntless spirit moved them, one and all. There was something dearer than life. To it they gave themselves and their all, and won the decoration of the Wooden Cross.
These men and a myriad more are calling to us, calling to us, and bidding us to carry on. If we would still hold to their comradeship we must display in life the spirit they displayed in death. We must live for the things for which they died. That which we have achieved by victory we must weave into the fabric of the new world and the new age. The Wooden Cross of our dead comrades is for them a glorious decoration. For us it is the banner of our life that is to be. It challenged us to be more precious than mortal life ideals of honor, justice, and righteousness. After all, the Cross that redeemed the world was a wooden cross, was it not? It was no toy or pretty bauble, but a thing of nails and pain and death – and yet a thing of glory.