On November 11th, America honors and celebrates our veterans. November 11th was originally Armistice Day to commemorate the cease-fire of the Great War, World War I, that took place at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
I know many veterans personally. Lots of family and friends served. Most honorably left their military service unharmed. Some left the service with deep wounds and scars. And some did not make it back alive. On Veterans Day, we thank them all for their service.
Back in the day, my grandparents listened to a radio program called The Breakfast Club, starring Don McNeill. My grandmother had purchased two books published by the program as inspirational readings for their listeners. As the member of my family who most loves reading (my library has more than 4,000 books), my grandmother gave me the books.
I have always liked the following story. And read it every Veterans Day. This year, I would like to share it with you, our readership.
The Yellow Butterflies
by Dorothy Van Houten, based on “The Perfect Tribute” written by Mary Raymond Shankland Andrews, which appeared in the November 1922 issue of the Ladies Home Journal.
At the turn of the century, in a small town in Virginia, not far from Arlington, there lived a dear little flaxen-haired boy. He had beautiful curly hair, and when he played in the sunlight, it made his hair look like gold. His mother noticed yellow butterflies hovering over him as he played and remarked that they were about the color of his hair.
The child grew older and was now ready to leave for school for the first time. His mother walked down the garden path to the gate to see him off. She loved this little boy very dearly and was quite sad for she knew she would miss him very much. Just as he went through the gate and was turning to wave to his mother, the yellow butterflies flew all around him, and one came to rest on his head. He liked to see them near and never tried to catch them or harm them. As he grew to be an older boy, for some reason, the yellow butterflies flew around him many times.
The years passed very quickly. Now, the young man was graduated. At this time, there was dread and fear of war. His mother’s heart was heavy, for her son, Jimmy, we will call him, was already talking about enlisting if the United States declared war. War was declared in April 1917, He enlisted. The day he left for training camp, his mother and boyhood sweetheart went to the train to see him off. He tried to be cheerful and make them feel the same, but his mother’s heart was nearly broken, and his sweetheart was very sad. They heard the train whistle and knew in a moment he would be gone, but just before the train arrived, again the yellow butterflies were flying all around him. He said, “You see, the butterflies are still with me, and they will be here to welcome me back.”
He went to war. As soon as he could he wrote letters home, telling his mother and sweetheart to cheer up, the war would not last long, and he would soon be back. They received quite a number of letters, but suddenly they stopped coming. His mother thought he may be in action and couldn’t write and hoped to hear from him later, but there were no letters for mother or sweetheart. They scanned the casualty lists. He was never reported wounded or killed in action, nor did they hear anything from the government concerning him. The war was over. There was no news of any kind.
Time passed on. The broken-hearted mother read in the newspapers of the dedication to take place at Arlington. She went. There she saw the tomb and wondered whose son was lying there. In her heart she felt that it might be Jimmy. She tried to listen to the speaker, hearing very little that was said. Her anguish and pain were almost unbearable. At last she heard something like this: “We have come to honor this soldier. He was selected from a number of ‘unknown soldiers.’ No one knows whose son is lying here.” Just then Jimmy’s mother gasped. It was all she could do to keep from crying out. Hovering all about the tomb were swarms of yellow butterflies. She knew whose son was lying there. She thought, “These people have gathered here to honor my son. It is his tomb they dedicate.” Then she breathed a silent prayer, “Oh God! I thank thee for these beautiful butterflies. They have come to welcome Jimmy back home.”
For all our readers who served, we at the American Council on Science and Health thank you. For all of those who didn’t, I hope you will take this opportunity to thank them as well.