A Man Can't Read His Tombstone When He's Dead

Earlier this month, Debbie, my brother Nathan, and I took my father to Washington, D.C. to participate in the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to the United States Army’s 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service. 

My father was an original member of the 100th Battalion, Company D, who fought from the “toe” and up the “boot” of Italy, all the way to France. It was a remarkable celebration to honor these American heroes, with a presentation of the Gold Medal at the Capitol and a black tie gala attended by 2,500 people.  Speakers included Senator Daniel Inouye, Speaker of the House, John Boehner, Secretary for the Department of Veteran Affairs, Eric Shinseki, Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, and Senator John McCain.

While many of the veterans, most in their late eighties and early nineties were present, the majority have passed away.  This made me think of an old poem, which should serve as a leadership lesson for all of us.

 

A MAN CAN’T READ HIS TOMBSTONE WHEN HE’S DEAD

 

When, with pleasure, you are viewing

Any work a man is doing

And you like him, or you love him,

Tell him now.

Do not withhold your approbation

‘Til the parson makes oration

And he lies with snowy lilies on his brow.

For no matter how you shout it

He won’t know a thing about it;

He won’t know the many tear drops that you shed,

If you think that praise is due him,

Now’s the time to give it to him.

Cause a man can’t read his tombstone when he’d dead.

More than fame and more than money

Is your word both kind and sunny

And the hearty, warm approval of a friend.

It give to life a savor

Makes us stronger, and yes, braver

And it gives us true encouragement to the end.

If he wins your praise, bestow it;

If you like him, let him know it.

Let the words of true encouragement be said.

Do not wait ‘til life is over,

And he lies beneath the clover,

Cause a man can’t read his tombstone when he’s dead. 

 

Author unknown

 

The 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service came back from World War II the most highly decorated units in United States history. Their heroic acts and leadership took place despite mass prejudice leveled against their race.  Because it took over half a century to rightly honor these men, many will never know how much our country appreciates their sacrifice and gift of freedom.  Today, as we celebrate Veteran's Day, let us honor each and every one of them and all those that have served and continue to serve in the name of freedom.