A Day To Remember

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    This Veterans Day is a bit special. The date is certainly special for the superstitious, 11-11-11. This Veteran’s Day also sees the winding down of the Bush War in Iraq, with President Obama promising that almost all those troops will be home for Christmas. The War in Afghanistan, the longest in our nation’s history, also has a window of closure – 2014. On this day we pause to remember not just those who serve now and will be fortunate enough to come home, but we remember all those who served in the past, many of whom never came home, who left holes in the hearts of their loved ones.

    When  I was still teaching, I noted that there seemed to be three groups of my students who joined the armed forces after high school. First, there were those who were patriotic and wanted to serve their county, often coming from families that had a long tradition of serving in the military. Other students felt that the military offered them a chance to get training and education they couldn’t afford otherwise. Then, there was a third group of kids who just didn’t know what else to do, who thought the military would be a way to get Dad or Mom off their backs about their future.

    I noticed one thing year after year. The only children of privilege who became soldiers were from that first group and they were few in number. The vast majority of the children I taught who became soldiers were children of the middle class and of the working class. It is those children who have spilled most of the blood on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. We may argue about the worthiness of whatever cause takes our children into combat, but we must never forget our obligation to those fine young veterans. Collectively, we sent them into danger and collectively we share a responsibility to them.

    The final point that struck me today was when I read this morning that more than 850 of the veterans who fought in World War II die each day. So soon, those heroes won’t be with us, but what they did is written by their sacrifice in our history. I honor them this Veterans Day, as I do all those who have served and who still serve.  

    • Goldmanusa

           One reason the country today seems unable to reach a sensible consensus on so much which seems self-evident is the lack of a unifying mission, for some reason so many revel in a Social Darwinism that is actually not in their self interest. They are so mad at some Americans, they don’t mind punishing themselves just to feel better.

            It is beyond tragic to think it takes something like WW 2 to bring a country together and then, in the aftermath, convince people to see themselves as having more than a life or death battlefield unity. WW 2 spurred Truman to change the views of his youth and be the first President of the modern age, starting with the military, to begin leading the fight to end segregation.

            WW 2 required universal service for men, and also brought women into the workplace in a way that also lighted a spark which got people thinking about how America needed to think differently about women. We forget that while the Civil War ended slavery in the South, the law in the North still kept women as virtual property of their husbands or fathers. It took another 60 years for example before the Constition got amended to make sure women had the right to vote.

            The bravery and sacrifice of men and women in uniform have not therefore merely won wars over seas, but they opened up our eyes here at home about the need to make sure more Americans can enjoy those self-evident truths.

            My Uncle, who landed was the only one in his boat to make it to the D-Day beaches, died recently. He went from Omaha to Bastogne, that’s a lot of fighting for one man in ten lifetimes.

      But for Truman’s decision to drop the A-Bomb, my father was sure bet to die as he had been prepositioned in the Pacific to be in the first wave to defeat Japan.

            As Sherman said, “War is hell”, as JFK remarked, life isn’t fair, no more so than in wartime, the line between life and death pure providence so often.

            Updating for today’s population, the number of soldiers who died in the Civil War was about 6,000,000, this is beyond my comprehension.

            It was a combination of old battle tactics, new gun technology and the state of battlefield medicine.

            Today we know how to save more, but at the same time, this means so many live with injuries I would assume even God has trouble imagining.

            So we owe those who wore and now wear the uniform far more than we all appreciate.

             Yet, sadly, we seem unable today to find any unity on so many important issues except in the sense that each side huddles together at opposite ends of the boxing rings, unwilling to budge.

             This is what always amuses me about Mr. Kuccinelli, who features himself as the purist guarding the true Constitution. The truth is, based on his claims, Mr. Kuccinelli would not have signed the Constitution had he been in Philly the summer of 1787, indeed he would have considered, well unconstitutional, since technically the guys had been sent to fix the Articles of Confederation.

             So again thanks for the post. Truth is, we owe our Veterans for not just helping to secure the peace aboard, but bringing back that unity to spur the country to unite to treat everyone more equal at home.  

    • Teddy Goodson

      in the Civil War, but it was possible to buy yourself a substitute who would go to war instead. Remember that American involvment in WWII began just 75 years after the end of the Civil War (I can still recall that, on patriotic occasions, we had a few surviving members of the GAR, Grand Army of the Republic, in parades in the 1930’s; guess most had to have been drummer boys), and when the draft was re-instituted for WWII it was made a lottery; each young man registered for the draft on his 18th birthday, the lottery basket was whirled, and low numbers went first. There were very few exxceptions, generally for 4-F’s, who had flunked the physical.

      My father was a Reserve Officer, called to active duty in 1940 from his career as a Doctor of Entomology. He was a Low Country boy from South Carolina, but there he was in what amounted to the Union Army—- the South has much more of a military tradition than the North, even today. He was an infantry battalion commander in the First Infantry Division throughout the war, landing in North Africa, in Sicily, and on Omaha Beach, fighting off the beach and through the hedgerows in France, the Battle of the Bulge, Hertgen Forest, capturing Aachen, and ending in Czecholsolvakia on V-E Day. He never returned to entomology, but became a regular Amry Officer and was “integrated”(the word meant something different in those days) into the standing Army after V-J Day. He, too, was expecting to be sent to the Pacific campaign, and said (I remember when he said it) that the Pacific “is a different war, I learned to fight in Europe,” and so he frankly expected he would not survive a ‘different war.’

      I am of the mind that we would be better off as a people if every young person today put in a year of public service (maybe two) between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, whether it is in the military, public health, or social service of some kind. The draft was a universal experience, the upper crust served alongside the nearly illiterate lower classes (sure, the better educated usually ended up in OCS, Officer Candidate School, but not at first), and as a result we learned that ‘others’ were people, too, every bit as deserving of respect and dignity as our own class. Today, our children pretty much stick to their own ‘hood and know little of other groups, to the detriment of America.