Monday, November 11, 2019

Remember

Joseph Ambrose, an 86-year-old World War I veteran, attends the dedication day parade for the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial in 1982. He is holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.

(Source)
Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to remember the men and women who served in the Armed Forces of the United States of America. It is also the anniversary of the end of World War I, Armistice Day as it is known in a number of countries, Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth. A day set aside to remember the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year 1918. One hundred and one years ago this very day.

To put that in perspective, when I was 13 years old, the Civil War had ended 101 years before, as an historian, both those conflicts are ever green in my thoughts. For many though, even the events of September 11, 2001 seem like ancient history. I just don't think we pay nearly enough heed to our forebears, the ones who made our today possible. For many, there were no tomorrows, some gave all of their tomorrows so that we would have today.

My grandfather was a veteran, my father was a veteran, I'm a veteran, my three children are all veterans. Do they, do I, expect some sort of special treatment because of my service? They don't, I don't. We were proud to have served our country in war and in peace. I can't speak for the rest of my family, but for myself it's enough to have served.

I think of the many who supported me while I served. Those who paid their taxes so that I might have the equipment I needed to perform the mission. Those who built that equipment, those who made home such a sweet thing to return to when my service was done, and those who just said, "Thanks" when all was said and done.

I occasionally get thanked for my service, and I really appreciate that, especially when it's from the younger generation. Don't let the media fool you, most of the kids coming out into the world today are hard-working, decent people. Remember the Meejah focuses on the bad ones, not the good ones. Just as bad news leads, so do the bad apples, of which there really are damned few, and those concentrated in just a few places.

My thought for the day, for this day, is that America is a nation worth serving, worth fighting for, and, if need be, worth dying for. America isn't just the land and the waters of the nation, it's primarily her people. Of many different backgrounds, of many different cultures, of many different beliefs, yet we are one people.

Out of many, one. I truly believe that.

God bless the people of the United States and the beautiful land we inhabit. We have our problems, we have our difficulties and disagreements, but at the end of the day, we are all Americans. It was an honor and a privilege to serve this great nation. I would not have traded my days in uniform for anything.

Thank a veteran, yes.

But thank those for whom we served as well. Without the people of this great country, what would have been the point of serving?

I will spend this day, as I do every Veterans Day, remembering those I served with, some of whom have already passed into the mists of time. I will also remember the long line of my brothers and sisters in arms who have so ably served since that April morn in 1775.

Mostly though, I will remember those who didn't come home...
Dulce et Decorum Est 
by Wilfred Owen
Killed In Action, 4 November 1918

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Remember...



42 comments:

  1. It hits close to home. I am part Flemish and some of the worst fighting was near the birthplace of my great grandpa Wambeke in Ypres. I also lived in Canada and it is Remembrance Day. I still use that term to this very day. I even remember the old timers when I was a little boy in Malta, Montana call it Armistice Day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I still think of it as Armistice Day.

      Delete
    2. Me too. But then again, I'm a bit of an antiquarian.

      Delete
  2. Many thanks to all the bloggers and readers of this blog who have served in the Allied armed forces - the world would be a much different place without your efforts and sacrifice.

    I was glad to see that Peter Jackson's terrific movie about WWI, "They Shall Not Grow Old", is being released again in December in a limited basis. If you haven't seen this movie, I highly recommend it. And make sure to stay for the segment after the credits that talks about how the movie was made.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Saw it on HBO, an incredible film.

      Delete
    2. Agree about "They Shall Not Grow Old."
      We recorded it and are about halfway through the watching. Today will be the perfect day to finish.

      Delete
  3. Interestingly enough this is our Polish Independence Day
    After 123 years of captivity Poland returned to the maps, althought it took almost 3 years to fight out exact borders.
    It was miracle as all 3 partitioning empires crumbled as a result of the devastating World War.
    So while the War was generally disaster for Europe, for us it brough freedom. Paradoxically enough, in the second one we would lose it despite formally winning.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wishing you all the best on this Narodowe Święto Niepodległości Paweł!

      Long may Poland remain free and independent!

      Delete
    2. The Poles are a Planetary Treasure!

      Delete
    3. May Poland be the beacon of freedom and strength it has always been.

      Too many times Poland has saved Western Civilization, with very little praise or notice at all.

      Up the Winged Hussars!!!

      Delete
  4. For those who post here and served, for all who served, for my Dad and Mom and her father who each served...... thank you. After reading this post it's gotten a bit dusty here......

    ReplyDelete
  5. Armistice Day to me. Serving runs deep on both sides of my heritage going back well past the Civil War. I never doubted I would serve. I considered it a requirement. That said, I don't consider my 36 months service in "peacetime" entitles me to any special treatment, or even thanks. It was simply what a citizen does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WSF- but it doesn't deserve any less respect than a career combat vet either. The wounded warriors and the ones who paid the ultimate? Ok, they get more of it, but respect all around. Nobody is measuring appendages around here.

      Delete
    2. True, but WSF is like a lot of vets, humble and proud to have served. It is what a citizen does (or should do).

      Delete
    3. Humility from himself, and respect from us!

      Delete
  6. +1 to all the comments above.

    I was a Cold War warrior. My army hitch ended in '77. Never experienced a shot fired in anger.

    I flew out on the 7th to Klamath Falls, Oregon to attend my Aunt's funeral service on the 8th. Flew back to DFW on the 9th.
    Her husband, my mother's brother, enlisted in the Navy at age 17 at the very end of WWII. By the time he sailed aboard the USS Chicago (CA-136) it was 1946. They had three kids, two girls and a boy, my cousins.

    One of the girl's husband is a military doc (doctor of osteopathy). He started in the Navy, later transferred to the Air Force, is now a Lt. Col. due to retire soon. He did a hitch in Afghanistan. I'll can him Fred here.

    We had a dinner the evening of the service, and afterwards sat around yakking and catching up. After a bit, Fred slid over across from me, said he had heard me taking about matters military. He brought the bottle of wine he had ordered with him. Some of his experiences in Afghanistan affected him deeply. His eyes welled up as he spoke of a 7 year old Afghan girl with a head wound. I think he needed to talk to someone he felt would understand. So we talked. I hope I helped. Told him to call me any time.

    Life goes on. We carry each other.





    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well done. Let Fred know we care.

      Delete
    2. You veterans speak a different language than standard civilians. Just being in the service changes you, especially if you've served outside CONUS. So you and Fred are on the same wavelength.

      Fred may need to check out his local VFW or American Legion. More people who have the same basis of thought and experience that can allow them to truly understand each other.

      Delete
    3. The support we Vets get these days is extraordinary, but we have to support each other even more. Civies just can't fully understand and guys like Fred need not only a sympathetic ear, but a familiar one.

      Delete
  7. Thank you all, you veterans, spouses, dependents, for serving and putting up with the serving.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anyone know the name of the last veteran of The Great War? I just read about him today. His name was Frank Buckles. Frank died in February, 2011 at the great old age of 110 years old. Now, we're running out of WWII vets. There are many still living, but a 16-year-old who enlisted in 1945 would be 90 years old this year. The Greatest Generation is losing something like 350 vets a day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Time marches on, whether we're ready or not...

      Delete
  9. Such a great post and lineup of great comments! "If you too could pace" is a great concept to think about, today of all days, and it's echoed in the comments above. I know a lot of folks who feel bad for not having served, and as you folks so aptly point out, it is and always has been a team effort. Yes, there are noloads around, and there seem to be a heck of a lot of them in the meejah, but they're in the minority. And living here in America, they have a much better chance than many around the globe to grow up and shed their noloadism. That's an astonishingly cool thing if you think it through. All thanks to America. Like some veterans I'm always a bit embarrassed to be thanked for my service, and that's because my secret is that while I was conceptually doing it for the nation, only later did I really come to understand I was doing it all for myself at the time. I was chasing the rush and the coolness and the thrill for me-me-me. In a happy coincidence nearly all of what I did supported and defended the Constitution, so I lucked out! And I'm happy it all came together that way because I didn't really habla Constitution until well into my 40's. Slow to mature (still waiting...). What the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution make clear to me is that it's a team effort, again nicely covered in post and comments here today. So when thanked, I like to say thanks in return, and point out that it is in fact a team effort and no one has anything to apologize for. If we were all in the military, who would make and pay for the boolets and beans and all the helos I trashed while adventuring? In my mind, this is foundational truth. Veterans don't make America free, Americans make America free. So thanks to one and all on this beautiful day!

    That concept presents a tough dichotomy to navigate for many, and I understand that, particularly in the sense that many of us Veterans had experiences which are simply not available outside the realm of military service. It's a simple fact, and many of those experiences are seen to be vital to the nation in a way that other experiences are not. This isn't so, at least not in the way some people fear, but I suspect that only someone who's had the experiences can fully believe that they are important, but no more or less important than the experience of any other American who does the day in, day out job of being an American.

    Nevertheless, there is a day set aside to honor Veterans, Just as there is a day set aside to honor Veterans who fell in service. This is right and proper and a treasure. Because of that dichotomy of experience, there are things which nearly every Veteran struggles with and which non-Veterans can't quite grasp. The honor given we Vets on those days helps in ways that, again, the non-Vets can't really understand. But it's such an indescribably nice thing that so many non-Vets do for us that it's very, very humbling to me.

    So to each and every American, Happy Veterans Day and thank you so much for what you do for our America. To my brothers and sisters, thank you for your service. Know that you are loved and cherished.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow PA, great comment. I know what you mean about being almost embarrassed to be thanked. Yeah, military life can be exciting as all get out and we loved it, but not everyone can do it, especially the deployments and the whole "risk of death" thing. So I guess that's why we're thanked. And Naval Aviation is one of the better jobs. Those guys on the ground, the ones coming home with PTS, I really feel for them. And it's wonderful to be thanked, which is 180 out from my Dad and F.I.L. when they returned from Nam.

      Delete
    2. I say thank you every time I visit Arlington. Some gave all...

      Delete

Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)