In a speech by Robert J. LeMay (April 1995), of Crossville, Tennessee, in observance of American History Month presented the following historical story, titled "Yellow Butterflies" :
'"I had just turned eighteen years old when I received a letter from the president of the United States, and the opening word was "GREETINGS". Some of you here may not know what a letter like that meant. It meant that I had been selected to serve in the Army of The United States; it was a draft notice! Hundreds of thousands before me had received the same ‘Greetings’ letter. Many of them never returned home.
I was one of the fortunate.
Taking my training only a few miles south of Washington, D. C. afforded me the opportunity to visit all of the historical, political, cultural and scientific centers of that area. And every time I think of that area I think of a visit I made to Arlington Cemetery, which is located in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington.
It was late afternoon and the shafts of Autumn sunlight filtered down through the trees before turning into evening shadows shrouding the tombs of our dead heros there. I paused, and in a brief silent prayer, thanked God for the lives of those men. And I said to myself, "Certainly these men have fulfilled their purpose in life." And I wondered about my purpose in life. Would it have the same end?.
As the shadows began to take shape, my thoughts shifted to a story that was told to me by a Colonel Riley. It was the story of a young man who gave his life for our freedom. This lad, during the period of World War I, grew up on a farm.
He was one of those children, as Robert Frost, one of our most revered American poets put it, "A boy too far from town to learn baseball, whose only play was what he found himself, and could play alone."
This young lad grew up with a great love of animals and birds. He was kind to them all. And everywhere he went, his mother noted, around his head there flew a swarm of yellow butterflies. This lad became eighteen years old and shortly thereafter the United States entered World War I.
He volunteered and after a brief training was immediately shipped out to France, where he was rushed to the front lines to fill an emergency requirement, and sadly, in his first battle, was killed in the action.
His parents, who had bade him good-by a short time before, received word from the war dept. announcing the death of their son. Of course, they were devastated, and in reply asked the war department to return the body for proper burial in the family graveyard.
The war department regretfully informed them that their son was one of a large number of unidentified men killed in action who had been buried in a common grave, and that, therefore, his identify would be lost forever.
The mother and father saved their money and finally, after the war was over, took a trip to France, with a prayerful hope of finding some trace of their son. They were unsuccessful and returned to America heartbroken all over again. They were just ready to give up in despair, when the president of the United States, made a most unique announcement. He declared that it was the intention of the United States Government to select one American boy, known but to God, and to bury the boy in Arlington Cemetery in what was to become the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
How many of you know the true story of how the UNKNOWN SOLDIER was selected? Let us digress for a few moments and I will tell you that story.
Six grizzled sergeants, all having suffered wounds in combat, were ordered to report to the commander in a small village deep in France. They had no prior knowledge of why they were reporting to the commander. After saluting with the proper respect and standing at attention in front of his desk, the commander spoke the following words as he held a fist out with three straws in it. "You will each draw a straw." They each did so. Whereupon the commander said, "The one with the shortest straw will select the UNKNOWN SOLDIER." The old soldier who drew the shortest straw has since told how the hackles stood up on the back of his neck when he learned that he would be the one to select the Unknown Soldier.
They took the old soldier down to a small and dimly lit chapel in the French village. The commander said to him, "In this chapel you will find six coffins. In each coffin lies the body of an unknown American soldier. You will place this bouquet of roses on the top of the lid of the coffin that you choose for the Unknown Soldier.
Thereupon they laid in his arms a big bouquet of roses. Again the old sergeant speaks in describing what took place by saying that upon entering the chapel he walked round and round aimlessly, completely awed by the challenge of the task. Finally, he described that a seemingly irresistible force pulled him toward one particular coffin. He walked across the room and laid the roses on the lid of one of the caskets, thereby selecting the Unknown Soldier.
The casket, containing the body of this unknown boy who had died for our freedom was lashed to the deck of a transport and brought back across the Atlantic in a very heavy storm. Finally it was landed in the United States and placed in that wonderful shrine now known as the TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER
His parents decided that the least they could do in respect to their son was to attend the ceremonies. They did, and at the conclusion of the ceremonies they proceeded along the walkway from the area, the mother glanced back over her shoulder just as a brilliant ray of sunshine broke through the trees and lit up the tomb.
She gripped her husband’s arm and said, "Look Dad!" and he looked and there, flying around the Tomb was a swarm of Yellow Butterflies and in her heart she imagined that her son had been selected to represent all of the unknown dead in World War I
And as I made my way down the shadowy path and thru the gate toward the bus stop; I prayed again that God would bring me home safely. And He did"'