THE DISREGARD OF SELF
I feel almost as if the next matter under discussion should have not only a special chapter devoted to it but be printed in large type and in distinctive ink, for I do not believe that anything so thoroughly gave evidence of the utter disregard of self in the Legion as did the flat refusal of the delegates to tolerate what has been called in some quarters, the "Pay Grab."
The minutes read:
Secretary Wood (Reading): "ADDITIONAL PAY FOR ENLISTED MEN."
"Whereas, the financial sacrifice of the enlisted persons in the military and naval service of the United States in the world war was altogether in excess of that of any other class of our citizenship, and
"Whereas, the great majority of these persons left lucrative employment upon joining the colors, and
"Whereas, this direct financial sacrifice was [Pg 158]made at a time when men, many of them aliens who thrived in safety at home, were enjoying the advantages of an exceptionally high war wage, and
"Whereas, the service which involved this sacrifice was a Federal service in defense of our national honor and national security, therefore be it
"Resolved: That the delegates to this caucus of those who served with the colors in the world war urge upon the members of the 66th Congress the justice and propriety of appropriating a sufficient sum from the National Treasury to pay every person who served in the enlisted personnel in the military or naval service for a period of at least six months between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918, six months additional pay at the rate of $30.00 a month, and to those persons who served less than six months' in the military or naval service between April 6, 1917, and November 11, 1918, the sum of $15.00 per month for each month so served. This bonus to be in addition to any pay or bonus previously granted or authorized and to be paid upon and subject to the honorable discharge of any such person."
Mr. Knox: "Mr. Chairman, I move the adoption of the resolution as read."
The motion was seconded.
Mr. Mcgrath (New Jersey): "I served in the navy, and I simply want to call attention to the fact that this resolution says that the money shall be paid upon the honorable discharge of the [Pg 159]soldiers and sailors, but in the navy we are only released from active duty and I will not be discharged for three years, neither will any of the other three hundred thousand naval reserves. I therefore move that the resolution be amended to say that so far as the navy is concerned that the money shall be paid upon their release from active duty or their honorable discharge."
The committee accepted the amendment.
The Chairman: "Before I put this motion I want to make this suggestion to you, that this is a pretty serious matter that you are considering. It is for this caucus, of course, in its wisdom to determine that which it wants to do, but up to this time, it has assumed continuously a most splendidly high and patriotic and unselfish attitude toward this whole question. It has dealt immediately and fairly and positively with regard to employment problems, but I suggest to you that we ought to consider very carefully whether we want to go on record as a caucus, as provided in this resolution, and I would prefer not to put the question until you have considered it further."
The action of the caucus was foreshadowed by the applause which it gave to Colonel Lindsley's caution. Fully a half dozen men jumped to their feet and waved their hands wildly demanding recognition.
[Pg 160]Colonel Roosevelt arose from his seat with the New York delegation, and Chairman Lindsley recognized him.
"Gentlemen, I want to draw your attention to one feature of this question," he said. The Colonel spoke very deliberately and very distinctly, reminding a great many of his auditors of his father because of the way he snapped his words out. "I heartily agree with what the chair has said so far. I want you to get this particular reaction on the matter and I want to relate to you a little incident that happened coming out on the train from New York. One of the delegates on the same train with me said that the conductor stopped and talked to him and among other things said, 'Young Teddy Roosevelt is up ahead. He's going out to St. Louis to try to get some of the soldiers together to sandbag something out of the Government!' Sandbag something out of the Government!" The young Colonel's frame shook with emotion as he repeated that sentence. "Do you men get the idea of what he thought we were trying to do? We want everything that is right for us to have, but we are not going to try to sandbag the Government out of anything; primarily we are going to try to put something into the Government. In thinking over this resolution think of that."
Fred Humphrey of New Mexico
Private V.C. Calhoun, of Connecticut and the Marine Corps
He is a Vice-Chairman.
He is a Vice-Chairman.
[Pg 161]The cheer which greeted this suggestion was so resounding and the opinion of the caucus so positive on this question that Mr. Gordon of Connecticut, a member of the committee that framed the resolution, moved that it should be laid on the table.
The thunderous "Aye" which tabled this resolution might well be recorded in letters of gold.
It showed the utter unselfishness of the American doughboy, gob, and leatherneck. He had followed Colonel Roosevelt's advice: he refused to sandbag the Government out of anything, and this action gives the best possible basis for the procedure to put something into the Government.
In view of the action of certain newspapers, organizations, and individuals in advocating that six months' pay should be given to the returned service man, I wonder if there are not still a great many of them who are still puzzled over why the Legion refused to endorse this movement. There must be scores of them, dozens of them who were not present at the St. Louis Caucus, to catch its spirit and who have not carefully considered just what impression such a demand on the part of former soldiers, sailors, and marines would create on the rest of the country.
Why shouldn't six months' pay be given to every man who did his bit in the war with Germany?[Pg 162] In the first place, these men who have returned from the war have begotten for themselves the utmost respect and affection from those who could not go. The civilian forms the majority of our people. Because of the esteem before-mentioned, he is willing to grant almost anything within reason to the service man who risked so much in defense of the country. It is to the interest of the service man to make the civilian population feel that he does not want to get something for nothing but that, rather, he would still prefer to give his best to the country in peaceful times in the same spirit that he manifested in war times—an utter disregard of self.
Had the Legion endorsed this resolution, the general consensus would have been, "There are the soldiers getting together to make demands. Their organization is nothing more or less than an association formed to get something out of the Treasury." Therefore, when the service men, as a unit, came to demand something vitally necessary for the good of the country, it is possible that they might be answered: "We have paid you in money and have your receipt and that will be all for you."
This Legion can, must, and will be an inspiration and a guiding spirit because it is composed of men who have been willing to sacrifice self for the good [Pg 163]of the country. For that they have obtained the affection of their world and just so long as they are willing to continue to manifest that spirit will they retain that affection.