In the atria of some of our clandestine services, stands a wall with the names of those who died in harness, while serving their countries: but who cannot be publically acknowledged, out of concern for the larger covert mission. (For a similar instance, see here: http://worldofdrjustice.blogspot.com/2012/11/discretion.html) The epitaph reads: “They Served in Silence”.
Today, Veteran’s Day, marks remembrance of those who served in uniform. Their masses are too vast to comprehend: and so instead we adress a numinous symbol of this very vastness, and of the unriddlable mystery of history: the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He stands as a mute metonymy for all who have served or will serve.
There is, in addition, a depth-psychological dimension to this which, for that very reason, is difficult to put into words. (Lacan may be pleased to pretend that “the unconscious is structured like a language”, but it certaintly does not speak English or French). This numen poked his head up in antiquity, in the Temple to the Unknown God.
As it happens, France today is likewise commemorating fallen warriors, on the anniversary of the armistice of the Great War: