Tag Archives: Memorial Day

The ‘Yes, We Can” Attitude of the Soldiers of the ARA

This Memorial Day we can remember the World War One Legacy of Humanitarianism (National World War I Memorial)

This Memorial Day we can remember the World War One Legacy of Humanitarianism (National World War I Memorial)

Memorial Day is here. It is a chance to remember lost loved ones. There are also the stories of others that may be lost in time, but not in value and spirit. Let’s remember them too.

A dedicated soldier, a member of the American Relief Administration after World War I, who lost his life to smallpox while trying to feed the hungry and sick.

Or a young lieutenant who was given the task of feeding the starving in Montenegro, a region in Europe that had been devastated during that war.

This part of Montenegro was a mountainous area, and with the onset of winter in 1918-19, it was a major challenge to bring relief supplies. Heavy snow had arrived and with damaged bridges and roads, people had given up hope they could be saved.

The New York Times reported on the grave circumstances and the rush of American officers to save lives.  People were already living off grass and the death rate soared as winter set in. It would be hard for large supplies of food to reach the suffering.

The starving people told the young American lieutenant,“you can’t save us.”

The lieutenant replied, “Yes, we can.” He planted an American flag on one of their churches and went to work. The American Relief Administration used cables to swing food over broken bridges. They used burros and horses to move food over miles of snowy mountain trails.

The lieutenant’s report on the heroic mission exclaimed “we did it. The people in this district are now happily eating American flour and pork. They have stopped digging graves and are, instead, planting their crops for this year’s harvest.”

That is what American humanitarianism is all about. Helping others, giving them a chance to survive and restore themselves. The American Relief Administration also provided free school meals in war-devastated countries, which brought millions of children back to health.

The same thing is being done today in conflict-torn Mali by Catholic Relief Services, through a grant by the U.S. McGovern-Dole program. That program was named after two veterans of the Second World War, George McGovern and Bob Dole.

It was Herbert Hoover who said famine is the inevitable aftermath of war. We saw that after  both world wars. Only humanitarian aid prevented mass starvation. We are seeing the effect today of war in Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan and other countries where hunger escalates as a result of conflict. The World Food Programme, the largest hunger fighting organization today,  is rushing aid to Syrian war victims as we speak.

On this Memorial Day remember too the humanitarian heroes, such as the amazing officers of the American Relief Administration. They were part of the American Army which won a war that many hoped would be followed by lasting peace, freedom for all, and freedom from famine.

While those goals have not been achieved, we need keep up the fight for those ideals which they so bravely pursued. This is the best gratitude we can give them.

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This Memorial Day You Can Save a Life in Famine-Threatened West Africa

This Memorial Day is a time to remember lost loved ones. It’s also a time when people can rally to save the lives of millions of people threatened by starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.

A severe drought has ruined food supplies in this part of West Africa, which includes Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and five other countries. Conflict in Mali has created a refugee crisis; small children have already starved to death as a result of the food shortages. Aid agencies do not have enough resources to defeat the famine.

West Africa Faces Food Crisis (Australian Broadcasting Corporation video)

How can someone help? Do exactly what General John J. Pershing did after World War I. That war, in which he commanded American forces, produced a massive food shortage that threatened millions with starvation in Europe and other areas. Pershing co-hosted a fundraising dinner along with Herbert Hoover who ran American relief efforts during and after the war.

Description: New York City, Children's Relief Fund, 12/29/1920, Invisible Guest Dinner (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

A chair was placed at the table signifying an “invisible guest,” one of the hungry and suffering. Funds were collected at the dinners through the cost of the plate and also additional contributions. The money funded the work of the American Relief Administration overseas, the agency that led the fight against the other enemy of the World War I- Hunger.

Description: CRB, American Relief Administration Food Distribution, Poland, CA 1919 (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

Today, Memorial Day offers an opportunity for people to have their own “invisible guest” event. If it leads to a donation of even the cost of one Memorial Day cookout meal, it can save a life.

The director of the UN World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, says, “Time is not on our side. If no new food or cash contributions are received immediately, the resulting inability to pre-position and distribute enough food at the peak of the lean season, from June to September, would be catastrophic for the most vulnerable, food insecure people – especially women and children.”

Children being screened for their nutrition status at a supplementary feeding centre in Mauritania. (WFP/Jacqueline Seeley)

The UN World Food Programme has started a relief fund where people can donate to the Sahel relief effort. Save the Children also has its own Sahel relief fund. Both offer great opportunities to feed an “invisible guest” this Memorial Day.

If the donations come in, children will be saved from starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.(WFP/Rein Skullerud)

Article first published as This Memorial Day You Can Save a Life In Famine-Threatened West Africa on Blogcritics.

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