By asking any veteran or any person serving in the military about the validity of the saying an Army travels on its stomach, you will discover that an overwhelming percentage (probably 95 percent, at least) will agree with that quote. Regardless of who is attributed (for both Napoleon Bonaparte and Frederick the Great are attributed to that saying) the reality that food warms the heart and the soul and, generally, emboldens man to overcome all odds, is an absolute reality throughout military history.
To further give credence to that axiom, there are a few local supporters of our area veterans and military, who on a consistent basis, bring into the offices at Veteran Advocates of Ore-Ida, delectable, incredible mouth-watering, absolutely can’t-imagine-life-without-it, preparations of homemade goodies which run the gambit from sweet to savory! These goodies not only enfold the heart and soul of the person making them, but bring a warming acknowledgement and gratitude and thankful appreciation from the many veterans who are the beneficiaries of said goodies! And who, after consumption, feel that they then can continue their day in absolute untethered contentment. Amazing how one can feel so good when one knows that there is someone who truly, truly cares about them and, who, through a piece of cake, or a cookie, or a bowl of soup, or a simple casserole, can be transformed. Truly there are times when the power of experiencing deeds and actions can far outweigh the deliverance of words. And also to the many of you who bring by those extra grocery bags of staples that you have purchased for our many veterans in need of a little extra assistance, if you could see the gratitude and thanks they truly show and express, I know it would also warm your heart and soul as it has theirs.
So I want to personally thank all those supportive and caring folks, who may not truly realize the very deep impact that the actions of their thoughts and deeds have on our local veterans and military and their families. Thank you, also, to those of you in our community that choose to share the bounty of your labor through financially supporting those veterans and military that need temporary assistance over the rough times in their lives. These gifts have and do really make a difference in sometimes being able to keep a family together.
So now, back to our quote about an Army travels on its stomach. According to many historians, this saying has been ascribed to three people; Frederick the Great (also known as Frederick the Second), Napoleon Bonaparte, and Thomas Carlyle. Seems the earliest reference to this was in 1858 in a work by Thomas Carlyle about Frederick the Great. The saying occurred in a description of an unsuccessful military endeavor: “they were stronger than Turk and Saracen, but not than Hunger and Disease.” Leaders did not know then, as our little Friend in Berlin came to know that ‘an Army, like a serpent, goes upon its belly,” and the little Friend in Berlin referred to Frederick the Great. Then, an entry dated in 1816 in a book by Count de Las Cases, “Journal of the Private Life and Conversations of the Emperor Napoleon at Saint Helena,” described a conversation Napoleon had with an 8-year-old child, Tristan: “Tristan is very idle. He confessed to the Emperor that he did not work every day. ‘Do you eat every day? Said the Emperor to him; Yes Sire. Well then, you ought to work every day; no one should eat who does not work. Oh, said Tristan, if that be the case, I will work every day. Such is the influence of the belly, said the Emperor, tapping the belly of Tristan. It is hunger that makes the world move.” Then in a later volume of the Counts book, Napoleon considered that every soldier be given a supply of corn to grind and make bread, from which he was quoted as saying; “there is no subordination with empty stomachs.” Interesting to note that Frederick died in 1786 and Napoleon died in 1858, you might then draw your own conclusion.
“The greatest and noblest pleasure which we have in this world is to discover new truths, and the next is to shake off old prejudices.” — Frederick the Great, King of Prussia 1740 to 1786
Ronald Verini is a local veterans advocate who writes a weekly column for The Argus Observer. He can be contacted at (541) 889-1978, email@example.com or 180 W. Idaho Ave., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.