Some Thoughts on Veteran’s Day, A Day Later

Much was made of the fact that Veteran’s Day this year fell on 11-11-11.  It used to be called Remembrance Day, and even before that, Armistice Day, and still is in many countries other than the U.S.   It’s intended to remember the dead at the end of WWI (you know, The War To End All Wars), when the Armistice  ending the war was signed by Germany at 11:00 A.M on November 11th (November being the 11th month).  The hype about it being 11-11-11 made me crazy.  It’s like numerology. 

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It seemed to me there was a lot more fervor this year.  In Tallahassee, there was a very large parade this year, which occurred in part because last year’s parade was an embarassment.  A new group took over, determined to make it front and center.  They got the prime parade route, down a few blocks of Monroe Street, which is Tallahassee’s “Main Street”.  Which is also U.S.Highway 27.  It’s a huge deal to close that, even for a short period of time.  To do it, you have to get permission from the U.S. Department of
Transportation.  In other words, from the very start, it was not an easy task,  I admired them for doing this.  They also had a “festival” of sorts, with food vendors stretched out in the “Chain of Parks”.  These parks are essentially mini-parks in the median of a divided street (Park Avenue) which go for maybe six blocks.  And I don’t mean to minimize them.  They are beautiful, with huge old live oaks, benches, and seasonally changing landscaping, all cared for by the City of Tallahassee.  How many cities can boast of such beauty in the middle of downtown? 

But the “festival”/food vendor thing, made me vaguely uncomfortable.  Yes it drew more people, probably, but what?  Have a funnel cake in honor of a dead soldier? 

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I do it every year onVeteran’s Day.  I think of my father who was a Gunner’s Mate on some sort of warship during WWII (I’m not up on WWII warship categories).  According to my cousin Jerry (Captain,USN, Ret.)  he went up and down in rank depending on what shenanigans and violations he committed that week.  My father was an avid, obsessive, fanatic bookreader.  Hmmm.  Who else do we know who is like that? 

When my father died, thanks to my cousin Jerry he was buried at sea in an official naval ceremony.  He had asked cousin Jerry to scatter his ashes in the ocean, but Jerry went him one better. 

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I can remember one day several years ago when I was in the grocery store, suddenly thinking, sheesh.  We are not suffering at all for GWB’s war in Iraq.  We are not suffering for anything.  There is no rationing.  I can buy chocolate and gasoline, all I want.  Meanwhile, there are members of the armed forces who this very night will be sleeping with a pile of sand as a pillow.  My opinion:  the Bush administration did not want it to hurt at home.  They were on a mission, and did not want any interference by a skeptical public.  They knew better than we did what was best for us.

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The final thing that makes me uncomfortable is all the hype this week about heroic service people, chiefly, the Marines.  To make a long story short, these people are being blown up in record numbers.  It has overwhelmed the VA.  And the stories have been mostly about the courageous guys with amputated limbs who have triumphed.  The VA and Walter Reed in particular (which is another story) have created multiple prosthetic limbs which allow the person to continue doing what they were doing before they got blown up.  They make prosthetic legs with a foot on the bottom, or a ski, or an ice skate.  How wonderful and amazing is that? 

But what I thought was, what about the other people?  What about the people who weren’t runners, or skiers, or hockey players before?  What if they were librarians?  Or doctors?  Or (more likely) just ordinary kids who never even had a chance to figure out what they wanted to be or do?

I can almost guarantee you that for every phenomenal amputee, there are 10 other people who aren’t doing very well.  So FINALLY, NPR did a story: 

treating-soldiers-with-severe-combat-wounds

So, it kills me when people say “Happy Veteran’s Day”.  There is nothing happy about it.

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