Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day '08

I am the only guy in the family lineage since the turn of the last century that didn't serve in the army. At the time that I was eligible, I fervently hoped I would not have the opportunity. Nixon had just initiated the 'Christmas bombing' of North Vietnam and my number was due to be drawn in the draft lottery a month later. Fortunately I got number 248 and they only went to 119 that year, the last year that anyone was drafted in the US. That was not a problem with my grandfather, dad, and youngest son; they all volunteered.

Grandpa Emil was in the MP's in WWI, today being the 90th anniversary of the end of that "war to end all wars". There is a great shot of him leaning on a building, somewhere in France, and the family legend is he is guarding an off limits whorehouse. My dad volunteered after Pearl Harbor and crewed in twin engine tactical bombers in the ETO, A-20's and A-26's. They bombed bridges, rail yards, and won the Presidential Unit Citation when they decimated the 9th and 10th SS Panzer divisions at the Falaise Gap after D-Day. My youngest son volunteered because he was interested in the field of security management and also because he is a stubborn, bullheaded Norwegian, not unlike myself. He was in basic training when all the pagers carried by drill instructors went off at once on the morning of September 11, 2001. He landed in Kuwait the day the war began and served as a humvee gunner from Kuwait City to Basra, to Nasiryah, and eventually up to Baghdad. He is still in the army, now an officer, in an artillery battalion in New York.I'm sure there are many folks out there with a similar story. But unless you've been there, as Silbs points out in his excellent Veterans Day post, you can't begin to know what it was like and what was endured. So take a few minutes to think about that today, no matter what your politics are. In my opinion, whenever a country invades another one the invader is in the wrong. I'm a history major; I can't think of one exception to the rule. Conversely, I don't think floating little paper boats down the river on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing does a damn thing to advance world peace. I always think of the old man and the same comment every year at that event: "I'll bet the guys on the Arizona would get a real kick out of this shit". If it did nothing else, dropping the bomb short circuited the transfer of the 416th Bomb Group to the Pacific theater, thereby ensuring the existence of me and my two sons. But the bottom line is that war, any war, is a destructive and highly negative event. Just think about the people that were involved in, survived, and in many cases did not survive and tell em you appreciated their service.


Ranger Bob said...

dropping the bomb short circuited the transfer of the 416th Bomb Group to the Pacific theater, thereby ensuring the existence of me and my two sons.

I had the privilege of shaking Paul Tibbetts' hand at the Duluth airshow in 2002. When I finally reached the head of the line, I stammered out something to much the same effect.

I am sure he heard those sentiments many times before.

I hope he did.

bonnie said...

And these days you never even know who's going to be a veteran. Just found out from my own less-than-brilliant veteran's day post that one blogger whose blog I read regularly is a vet. My first thought was "But he's too young!". My second thought was "Oh, that's right".

bonnie said...

And speaking of far-younger-than-they-should-be vets, it was immediately subsequent thoughts of your son that sent me over to see what you had to say. Thank you.

Silbs said...

Nice post. I'm glad you had a high number, you were meant for better things.

Ian said...

Contemplation, my only solace to the lonesome crippling world I live in. I must now adapt to the things around me. Everything has changed so drastically from the comfortable life I once knew, a simple life of waking, school, and friends. No longer am I a spectator watching the worlds events unfold on the mindless screen we all know and venerate. I am now at the forefront of this epoch war awaiting my duty. I have already once fought for the ideals of our government, and every waking moment, in the depths of my mind, I conjure images of my next journey into hellish chaos. A reality I will surely face in the future. What strains and hardships will my relationships bear? How much more will my family have to suffer? All the families for that matter. Day by day, no wait, minute by minute loved ones sob from the blackness of not knowing where their other halves may be. It is so terribly hard to continue such a robotic methodical life I’m forced to live in this monetary driven society. There were times I knew I was dead, but death brushed pass me to claim another. I came home to a new world and dove in with such precision and pride. I felt reborn, but now my darker days have caught up with me. The euphoria of seeing my life of old has long since subsided. Everything around me is so insignificant. Will this feeling ever die or will I be forced to cope?

FYI: I wrote this a few months after I got back from Iraq. I had started going to college again and was struggling to take it seriously i.e. the homework, punk teenagers, lack of worldly awareness around them, etc.