It Is The Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

Copyright Charles M. Province, 1970, 2005.
All rights reserved.

This popular poem reminds us that without men and women willing to go into harm's way to preserve them, the freedoms granted by our Constitution, and taken for granted by so many, are worth little more than the piece of paper they're printed upon.

There are blogs and comments across the internet debating the content of the poem, some picking it apart by attempting to apply the words literally. Sadly, those who do so will never understand the true meaning of the poem -- that without our military members willing to defend them, those freedoms we cherish would quickly disappear.

So, while technically soldiers do not "give" us those freedoms, they do guarantee them. Those types of people just will never "get it," at least not until it's too late, and then they'll wonder what happened, and why the military didn't stop it.

The poem has been widely circulated and inaccurately attributed to "Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC." As an astute reporter pointed out, the U.S. Marine Corps does not have priests -- priests for Marine units are Navy chaplains. We are not linking to that reporter's piece, because we strongly disagree with its premise, which takes exception to the sentiment in the poem. If you have read this far, that piece would only raise your blood pressure and we do not wish to promote it, so we'll save you the trouble.

From our research, it appears that Sergeant Denis Edward O'Brien served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He became a priest after his discharge from the military.

According to the offices of the Catholic Community of Pius X in Dallas, TX, where Father O'Brien lived and worked from 1988 to his death in 2002, Father O'Brien was always quick to disclaim his authorship of the poem.

U.S. Army veteran Charles M. Province claims the copyright to the inspiring poem. Province is the founder and president of The George S. Patton, Jr. Historical Society, and author of several books about General Patton. According to Province, Father O'Brien was erroneously credited as the author of the poem by Dear Abby after forwarding the poem to her.

We are happy to help clarify the origin of this fine piece, which honors the spirit and contribution of the individual members of the U.S. military, and to recognize the work of Mr. Province.

We hope that you will remember, and help others to remember, that the freedoms they enjoy are theirs only because of the courage, dedication and sacrifice of the brave men and women of our armed forces, past, present and future, who are willing to stand up and fight to preserve them.

Please, take a minute to post your message of thanks to our troops.

Then, comment on this reader's claim that "It is the Soldier" poem goes overboard with its praise of our troops.

If you are a Vietnam vet who would like to share your stories, or you'd like to pay a special tribute to a Viet Nam vet, please go to Vietnam Veterans. You'll find a form to submit your story at the bottom of the page.

Read What is a Veteran? by Father O'Brien

We Are the Nation, written by Vietnam veteran Commander John "Bug" Roach, USN.

Listen to Before You Go, a musical tribute to World War II veterans, now in additional versions for veterans of other conflicts.

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