Veteran’s Day Once More

While Athena and Krissy were at the Korean War memorial last week, an older gentleman in a wheelchair came up to a particular spot on the memorial and looked up at a soldier who was portrayed there. It was him, sixty years ago now. The sitting fellow is that gentleman, surrounded by a group of Vietnam veterans, one of whom is pointing to the image on the wall.

A long time ago, that moment in granite was. But it’s permanently etched into our nation’s history now.

Here in the US it’s Veterans Day; in the UK, Canada and elsewhere in the Commonwealth it’s Remembrance Day. Wherever you are, take a moment to reflect on the service those in your nation’s military gave to your country, whether decades ago or today.

40 thoughts on “Veteran’s Day Once More

  1. That’s a cool memorial, that they were able to sketch images into it. That he found his image among the some odd 34 thousand lives were lost just on the American side.

    I visited the Vietnam War memorial when it was built. Names only, but just as poignant.

    Let’s end all wars, please.

  2. What would it take to bring back actual holidays rather than just having labels on calendars that signify times for selling things at discounts? Really, would the country be devastated if we all got a day off with nothing to do but go to a parade honoring those remembered by the holiday? Close down the movie theaters, restaurants, retail stores, etc., on the holidays. Why not?

  3. A few years ago, we went to see the Belgian and French First World War battlefields, to visit some of the little cemeteries and museums, and to tour the area.. A couple of things struck me very forcibly – in the whole area of the battlefields there are no old trees – all the woods were destroyed and replanted in the 1920s, so the trees are all of one age in one place.. This changes the landscape utterly.
    The other thing was nightfall at the Menin Gate. At dusk each night the town traffic through the gate stops, a bugler plays the Last Post, and then the traffic resumes.. No-one is impatient, and it happens every night, more than 90 years after the deaths of those whose names are commemorated on the gate. Thousands who have no other grave are remembered here, among them a great-uncle of mine.. The more imposing memorials and the immaculate small cemeteries are impressive, but this simple few moments each night is much more so.. Try not to kill each other, folks..

    HH

  4. We could help stop wars. Two ways would be to tell our representatives to cut military spending, and to fund alternative jobs for those 18-24, like a permanent WPA or something.

  5. There aren’t all that many WWII veterans left. My father died before my children were old enough to remember him but his brother (“Granpa Fred”) graciously took up the task of passing on family oral traditions. My mother died this year. I took advantage of being in Honolulu on 7 December 2001 for a business conference to listen to the stories of the old men who were there as young men fifty years earlier [1].

    There are fewer of them every year. Please take the time to talk to a few of them. Better yet, take children to hear their stories. And best of all, don’t wait until next November.

    [1] As well as both men and women of FDNY who were doing some after-action destressing. Good move, New York.

  6. A few years ago my nephew was in France, and he located the grave of my uncle, killed during WWII while flying a hospital plane.

    That’s the grave I think of on Veteran’s Day.

  7. The Korean War memorial is beautifully done. When I saw it, it was night (I was in D.C. for a late summer wedding, and my uncle suggested a family tour of the monuments after dark — they’re beautiful, and it’s less hot) and the figures from the sculptural part were literally emerging from mist.

    The other thing that struck me was a beautiful, freshly placed wreath of flowers. I went for a closer look and saw that it was from “The People of South Korea.” This wasn’t Veterans Day or any special occasion; I believe there’s a wreath placed by the South Korean embassy daily. The Korean War may be the forgotten war here, but it’s certainly not forgotten by the South Koreans, who live in a country that’s imperfect but not a living embodiment of Orwellian warnings, either.

    Anyway. I am in general opposed to wars. But I also recognize that sometimes they are necessary to defend freedom against tyranny, and I appreciate those who serve.

  8. As a Retired Command Master Chief with 30 years in the Navy, I was originally drawn to your book “Old Man’s war” and the novels that followed.
    I always wondered if you had served since you had such a well-drawn add realistic viewpoint of the thoughts and attitudes of those of us who serve.
    Since then I’ve recommended to many of my peers that they expand their horizons and you have earned several new fans to your writing and to Science Fiction overall.
    Thanks for your work.

  9. My family is largely military. I grew up in the Air Force, and my son made it back alive earlier this year from two tours in Afghanistan with the Marines. Veterans Day is always a very sober time for me.

  10. In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the Dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    - LtCol John McCrae, 1915. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Flanders_Fields

    A little something for those who have sacrificed their lives for their country in the service of peace and freedom around the world, whether in one of the two World Ward, Korea, Vietnam, various UN peacekeeping missions, Iraq, Afghanistan or other conflicts.

    Also, my thoughts go to the men and women that are currently serving, either here in the Canadian Forces, in the US military or anywhere else in the world. Thank you.

    Finally, thank you Scalzi for your post today.

    -Alex Auger, RCAF

  11. Bittersweet day for me. I come from a military family, am of the first generation as far back as we have recorded, to not serve. Ultimately, I didn’t enlist because of DADT. Now that DADT has ended, I’m several years too old, and decades past that decision point. I’m deeply conflicted, right now. I think I’ll call my dad (USMC, ret.), now.

  12. Funny… I never see Veteran’s day as applying to me. It applies to people like my dad who fought in WW2, his brother who died on D-Day, a great uncle who was a “guest” of the Germans for a year and a half***, my uncle who fought in the Korean War, several cousins and friends and long missed comrades who did their duty in Viet Nam, other comrades who comrades who fought in the first Gulf war, and an old unit/family that has done two tours in Afghanistan.

    For me, Veteran’s Day is a highly personal affair. If not for WW2, my parents would never have met. Just strange to contemplate that ulitmatelymy life exists because of the madness of war. People fought and died for my freedom… I know because some of them were flesh and blood I never had a chance to meet, and others carry/carried scars–external and internal–from doing there duty.

    Thank you to all the Veterans out there. I love you all.

    ***A tall muscular man over 6 feet tall and over 200 hundred pounds who returned home weighing just barely one hundred pounds and only because he was willing to fight over molded cabbage that had been thrown in the mud.

  13. My dad was in Korea. He was appalled that they didn’t use American granite in the memorial… *chuckles a bit* He’s just like that…

  14. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

    Those lines (Lawrence Binyon, For The Fallen, 1914) are spoken at remembrance events in the UK, such as this morning at the Cenotaph in central London, last night at the Festival of Remembrance at the Albert Hall, and at any number of smaller gatherings.

    In 2007 the 109-year-old Harry Patch, “The Last Fighting Tommy”, the last man standing who had fought in the trenches of the first world war, says those lines here – a bit out of order – at the Menin Gate that helenehowesH mentioned above.

    He died two years later; he lived a few miles from me and I went to stand in the High Street in Wells as his coffin was brought from his nursing home to a service in Wells Cathedral before he was taken back to his birthplace near Bath for burial. He had insisted that French, Belgian and German soldiers were allowed to accompany his coffin, as well as a detachment of British soldiers. But no-one, on his instructions, was allowed to carry a gun or even ceremonial weapon.

  15. This is a somewhat unique Veteran’s/Remembrance Day. It’s the first one with no living veterans of WW I, the war that led to its creation.

  16. I am here because of those who served. I was lucky, born in a country and to a generation that did not fight (too much…). My father turned 18 just as WWII was ending, and served out his national service in comparative peace and quiet. If things had turned out different he might have died just as so many others did, fighting for a cause he might not have fully understood. My Maternal Grandfather was captured and made it through the war as a POW, though for a while it was believed he had been killed and so the Army in all its wisdom thought that my Grandmother, therefore, did not deserve an pay which might be accruing to feed their two daughters and their son during those months he was missing. Nor did they feel it necessary to backdate it again when word made it through that he was in fact alive, but hells teeth, people made it through worse, so let bygones be bygones. If he had died, if the war had not ended when it did, things would have certainly be different. And I would not have been born.
    So to all those heroes, including my Grandfather, let me say thank you for letting me be here to appreciate your bravery, and benefit from the peace you gallantly fought for.

  17. Being the oldest in my family, I adopted my next door neighbor as an older brother. He was 3 years older and willing to put up with me. I can remember sprawling on the carpet at his house doing homework. He had the most beautiful handwriting I had ever seen by a guy. Almost Jeffersonian.
    Edward Fee died on July 4th 1965. He was a corpsman assigned to a Marine unit.
    Rest in Peace, Buddy.

  18. I also think of the following lines, which are part of the Act of Remembrance:

    When you go home, tell them of us and say,
    For their tomorrow, we gave our today.

  19. @ mintwitch

    I come from a military family, am of the first generation as far back as we have recorded, to not serve.

    Me too.

    I think I’ll call my dad (USMC, ret.), now.

    My dad’s retired army. And I agree, phone call and thank you time.

  20. DULCE ET DECORUM EST

    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 tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped 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.

    Wilfred Owen
    8 October 1917 – March, 1918

    This poem is a reminder that today we are honoring sacrifice, not war.

  21. An uncle was gassed in the first World War and survived. Three other uncles served in the second. My brother-in-law served as a tail gunner in Korea. I was in the Navy before Vietnam. My best friend was a machine gunner in WW II. My son-in-law is a staff Sargent in the U.S. Army right now. Yet, I don’t know how to express my feelings for these men. I guess I’ll just say, Thanks.

  22. Thank you for this post, and thank you for the ebooks you gave to me while I was in Iraq.

    Veterans make amongst us everywhere, not just at memorials, but I am glad that your family got to meet some veterans in DC.

  23. My dad fought through the South Pacific until medevaced, I spent 27 years in the Marines and left friends and naivete in RVN. My son in law and daughter are Marine officers and between the two of them have spent over 1200 days in the war zone away from their kids (one at a time fortunately), My cousin spent 6 years in the Hanoi Hilton and his daughter is an Army captain. Yet although I appreciate the thanks for my service it is I who am thankful. I never woke up a day in 27 years wishing that I was anything but a United States Marine and my nation gave me the opportunity to serve alongside the finest men and women I could imagine. I considered it a privilege to serve and so when I say “Thanks” to the people who speak their appreciation for my service I also say “Thanks” to them for giving me that privilege and opportunity. Semper Fi, Marines, we remember.

  24. I mentioned this last year and I think that it bears repeating. Of all of the veterans that I know and have ever met, all of us have a similar attitude about grattitude. No thanks necessary. Just enjoy this and every other day and vote and enjoy what America and every other country that veterans ever fought to defend has to offer. It’s paid for.
    SSgt David Huss
    Co C 2/152 Infantry (M)
    U. S. Army
    1983-1991

  25. I was lucky enough to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Canberra, Australia earlier on this year. Remembrance Day always makes me think of that place and the fact that these men and women, most younger than I am now gave their lives so I could walk in the sun and breathe the air.
    Humbling is probably the right word.

  26. Vis what veterans have done, I finally got up the nerve to ask Dad about
    what Mom said.
    The expression on his face was close to pity and included sadness and
    he said “That didn’t happen.”
    On occasion I’d go back to the library with my books and his.
    I often had to pay a fine for a couple of books that were open to this:
    http://www.kipling.org.uk/poems_copybook.htm – Rudyard Kipling.
    My sister wrote a paper about “The Ballad of East and West,” IIRC.
    -
    Dad, If you hadn’t gotten that no alcohol insurance policy I’d lift a mug
    to you.
    Instead I guess the Moose Head Cafe daily special except no.
    -
    They seem to have gone out of business at about the time he slept well.

  27. @David Huss, you may not feel it necessary to be thanked for your service, but it is necessary for us to thank you, so that we never take it for granted. Thank you.

  28. “They didn’t call what was wrong with him Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but it was.”
    -
    First time I understood what that difficulty was was via an article about ‘shell shock’
    that explained some things about a couple of poorly behaving veterans.
    -
    -
    PTSD is a good term, I suppose, in that it lumps guys who have had severely bad
    experiences with rats and somebody else’s foot and some ankle in with 4 YO’s who
    are (technically) still virgins.

  29. I spent sunday with my step-grand dad, who was a gunner in bomber command over europe in ww2. He’s proud of his service, and he deeply mourns his friends. he struggles with survivor’s guilt. But after the we service in our local church, and while everyday family life, conversation, small children, animals, swept around us, he wept quietly, and tried to explain the pain which haunts him now, almost 70 years on. “I must have killed thousands of people…”
    There seemed little to say, in that happily bustling kitchen, which would not trivialise what he was sharing with me, who has never had to face the choices he did, and will never have to live so long with an experience that intense. So we just held hands, until the moment passed.

  30. ” “I must have killed thousands of people…” ”
    No.
    Closer to tens of people, and hopefully lots of rats.
    Tell him to think about how many rats he killed.
    Tell him that:
    The people who he did aim at to knew of the impending difficulty, and had
    bomb shelters and had a severe disinterest of getting maimed to death, and
    mostly did not die, did not get maimed.
    -
    Do not tell him stories of *.* is helpless under lots of heavy stuff and bleeding
    out and here come the hungry rats.
    Rats. When you are having a final few bad seconds you do not want to be rat
    din din.
    Misters Poe and King either don’t know what true horror is, or maybe have
    standards.

  31. My grandfather knows pretty much what his final score might be, and, given his particular service, he’s not likely to be far wrong.

    He’s acutely aware of the part he played, and why he did it, and why he’d do it again. As a schoolboy on a bicycle he survived the blitz on Portsmouth, carrying messages through the blazing streets to the heavy rescue teams digging in the ruins of what had been family homes hours before.

    Only a few years later, as a very young and very brave man, he flew with Bomber Command over Germany and Eastern Europe, on nights when fewer then 50% of crews returned to base. He doesn’t need stories to know what was happening in the streets and cellars of towns like Pforzheim and Dresden below him.

    So, I’m not going to tell my grandfather anything, other than I love him and I’m proud to know him, and that I am grateful for the service he gave then, the sacrifice he made, and is still making, all these years later. Remind him that his children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren live only because of that service and sacrifice. And buy him a pint.

  32. Atropos (Who is unlikely to see this):
    “…his final score might be, and, given his particular service, he’s not likely to be far wrong.”
    Sir/Ma’am: I meant to suggest that you comfort him, and of course assumed that he would
    hate, recognize and be offended by a lie.
    So, go with the good parts of who he killed that the world is better off without.
    And speak of bomb shelters.

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