I never forgot this passage from Vera Brittain’s Testament to Youth. I think it’s appropriate to bring up on July 4th. Vera was a British nurse during WWI. In 1918, the war was going badly for Great Britain. Each week, her field hospital retreated before the German onslaught. Though the English newspapers painted a rosy picture, Vera and her colleagues knew their army had little time left, until…
Only a day or two afterwards I was leaving quarters to go back to my ward, when I had to wait to let a large contigent of troops march past me along the main road that ran through our camp…though the sight of soldiers marching was now too familiar to arouse curiousity, an unusual quality of bold vigour in their swift stride caused me to stare at them with puzzled interest.
They looked larger than ordinary men; their tall, straight figures were in vivid contrast to the under-sized armies of pale recruits to which we had grown accustomed…Then I heard an excited exclamation from a group of Sisters behind me.
“Look! Look! Here are the Americans!”
I pressed forward with the others to watch the United States physically entering the War, so god-like, so magnificent, so splendidly unimpaired in comparison with the tired, nerved-racked men of the British Army. So these were are deliverers at last, marching up the road to Camiers in the spring sunshine!
…An uncontrollable emotion seized me – as such emotions often seized us in those days of insufficient sleep; my eyeballs pricked, my throat ached, and a mist swam over the confident Americans going to the front. The coming of relief made me realise all at once how long and how intolerable had been the tension, and with the knowledge that we were not, after all, defeated, I found myself beginning to cry.