Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembrance Day

On this day we should think more of those veterans who served as private, pfc, or nco rather than four star David.  Is there a similar day in Greece, Al?   Seydlitz, what about Portugal?  Sven, Germany? 

I still remember my great-uncle Dinty, a ww1 vet who got a taste of the mustard gas, and who lived with us in the forties and early fifties because he could not afford a place of his own.  Until my sister was born anyway, and the room was needed so he moved on to my Aunt Alice's house, and later to another Aunt before he finally passed away peacefully.  At least he was with family.  For many today that is not an option, although it should be.

I spent a few hours yesterday passing out paper poppies and shaking a can to raise funds for impoverished vets.  There are many 80 and 90-year old veterans or their widows on a small fixed income.  Many cannot afford to get back and forth to the VA hospital or even to a local Doc.  Some need help navigating the VA bureaucracy.  Some are living in houses with leaky roof that they cannot afford to get fixed.  I have seen them in the market staring at the prices in the meat display fridge and finally settle for spam or items past their expiration date.  My bride has been known to drop a $20-bill on the floor behind them, then tap them on the shoulder and press it into their hands saying they dropped it.  Beats me how the economic pundits can say there is no inflation.  They, those vets and their wives and widows have been called the greatest generation but they are fading fast and should not pass on while cold and hungry.

As for Petraeus he is in good company: Ike, Kennedy, and a few others like FDChief pointed out.  All of us may (or may not) even have strayed from the straight-arrow path ourselves in the bad old days of long peacetime deployments.   Perhaps we were not so full of hubris to think we could get away with it.  We need to stop policing the morals and sexual behavior of others.  We (or at least I) should be more concerned with our own.  King David will do fine.  

A number of those vets or widows are preyed upon by scam artists and phone hustlers.  Good for Holly Petraeus for standing up for military families, for consumer protection, and against illegal foreclosures with Senator-Elect Warren.  A lot of vets were affected by those foreclosures.  The discussion should be about her accomplishments for vets and not her husbands human weakness.

Here is one link Holly Petraeus    


  1. mike-

    Nice post.

    In Portugal there's nothing in general. This regarding "Poppy Day" type commemorations . . .

    11 November is Sao Martinho. The single date they commemorate from that time is 9 April, the date of a great battlefield defeat and slaughter in that same year 1918 . . .

    In Portugal, there is little interest in general in the whole Veterans Day approach. I give classes in connection with Poppy Day to my students, but mostly it doesn't register. "Why do you do all this again?". This year as in years past, I invited a friend of mine, a World War II Vet, to talk about his experiences serving in the WWII Army and Pacific Theater. He was drafted in January 1945 and was slated to land as part of Operation Olympic (the invasion of Kyushu), but the Atomic Bomb ended the war and (so he maintains) saved his life. This gets their attention, since normally Portuguese of their age and background see the dropping of the atomic bomb as more the nature of a "war crime".

    Portuguese don't commemorate those who serve the state, rather those who overthrow a corrupt/outmoded state: 25 April, 5 October, & 1 December. Wars are like natural disasters, soldiers sign up to serve and not question, the state is something not to be trusted . . . commemorate what exactly the Portuguese would ask, and then add "your commemorations only seem to ensure that you engage in ever more questionable wars".

    How to answer that?

  2. Mike,
    I for one am not up to policing any ones morals or sexual behavior.
    What i object to is the hypocrisy of selling our version of morality thru a COIN policy and the whole time our high priest is operating on a war lord level.( I know the jury is still out on the time table)), but it's looking like an active duty under the desk deal.)
    One must remember that DP is not an individual -he's an o10. As such he's waived his right to act like a sailor.

  3. @Seydlitz – As for you student’s point: "your commemorations only seem to ensure that you engage in ever more questionable wars".

    A fair comment! We do tend to glorify war through some of our ceremonies. It is shameful IMHO that Armistice Day, the day that ended the so-called ‘war-to-end-all-wars’, has degenerated into political theater and some politicians on the right try to use that day and veterans as a club to beat their opponents with. Jingoism is still alive and well in the 2nd Christian millennium and 300 years after the age of enlightement.

    And yet those same right wingnuts forget about those soldiers & sailors that are in need (unless of course it might get them some votes in the next election). That is the reason why I tend to believe we should help out the living survivors of those wars. Especially those octo- and nonagenarians that I mentioned above. You may say they are on social security and medicare and some even have the VA so why bother? Try living on social security that was awarded back 20 to 25 years ago, it has not kept up with a living wage despite COLA. There is a huge difference in dollar benefits between say the 1922 year group and those born in 1947. And there are very few on VA. Those guys just wanted to go home and get away from everything military and never registered with the VA at the time.

    As far as your students’ other point, the dropping of the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a hideous part of history. I am sure that most if not all that took part in it were haunted by it all their lives. I do not think though that the allied servicemen who would have had to take part in the invasion of the Imperial Japanese home islands, China, Malaya, Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies ever regretted it for a day. And it is history not a current event – it happened two-thirds of a century ago. I am not smart on Portuguese history but I don’t think their recent colonial wars in Angola and Mozambique of the 1960s and 70s gives them any room to talk about war crimes of others. To say nothing of when they established those and other colonies all over the globe in the 15th century. Does Camoes' "Luisades" speak to genocide and enslavement or just the glory of exploration. And didn’t the Portuguese start the transatlantic slave trade long before the Brit and Yankee blackbirders got into that business?

    1. To be fair, that is part of my goal in the presentation. I wish to confront them with a quite different perspective regarding the dropping of the atomic bomb. It is one they had not considered before . . .

      Another student told me that the Portuguese don't commemorate their war dead because in requires them to face their more recent history in Africa. Not only the wars, the loss of the colonies, but the million returning Portuguese settlers who had lost everything in Africa only to be treated with hostility and indifference at home . . . quite a lot to handle.

  4. @Jim - "...he's an o10. As such he's waived his right to act like a sailor,"

    Well spoken. But it has always been the case that the big cheeses and VIPs get as much or more fluff on the side than ordinary GIs and bluejackets. Power is a babe magnet. It was for Ike and too many others innumerable to name.

    I do not believe that Petraeus is as right wing that Basil makes him out to be. He is not the monster that the morality police are making him out to be. And he is not the election straw horse that the righty tighties think either. Just a poor mook that got caught with his pants down.

    My major beef with Petraeus is his choice of shackjobs. Broadwell??? A so-called former intelligence officer who does not know her emails can be traced? A person so jealous and unbalanced that she threatens a perceived rival? For a hobby she claims to go to the local range to shoot Uzis and she pimps for KRISS Arms on their Vector sub machine gun? What a whacko! It shows Petraeus has pretty poor judgement IMHO. Or maybe it just shows his naivete and artlessness in pursuits of the heart. The man needs some vetting on any potential mistresses in the future.

  5. Mike,
    How do u spell Lewinski?
    As Marine you know that all leadership is rooted(no pun)to moral courage. This is more important than physical courage.
    It's the system that i question.

  6. Jim -

    A leader's judgement trumps courage, either moral or physical.

    In any case this thing keeps getting weirder and more magical.

    see Mother Jones Link

    Two lessons learned from all this:

    1] Never undersestimate the salacious interest that homo americanus takes in the sexual activities of others especially the rich, famous and powerful.

    2] Never underestimate how bat-scheisse crazy the right wing can be with their conspiracy theories.

    In any case I hope there was a peaceful Veteran's Day for Petraeus, John Allen, Ike, Patton, Hoss Cartwright, Pershing, Jumping Jim Gavin, MacArthur and any other alleged philandering generals. Even 'agent shirtless' if he is a vet, but somehow I doubt that he has ever served.

  7. mike:

    I do not believe that Petraeus is as right wing that Basil makes him out to be.

    It doesn't matter to me whether or not he is right or left or no winged.

    What matters to me is who he allows in to squat on his front lawn.

    And this story is so very pregnant, isn't it?


    But back to Veteran's Day. I have to admit, I have difficulty with tossing out "Thank you for your service."

    Just my opinion, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a hello and glad to meet you, and a bit of time to tell stories hits the spot.

    Of course, everyone has stories, but IMO vets have the best ones. They've been places all over the country and the world, seen people, places that I'll never ever see, had experiences bad and good both.

    Maybe it's b/c I've just seen Skyfall and have Bond on my mind.

    Vets, the true life James Bonds of our time.

    Whaddya think?

    Here's a bunch of stories I found recently.


  8. mike,

    A nice piece, and thank you for mentioning the good work that Holly Petraeus endeavors to do.

    Re. the Mr., I totally agree: If he couldn't see teh crazy rolling off that one (Broadwell), I'd peg him as rather naive.

  9. bb -

    As far as tossing out "Thank you for your service." I have no problem with the term myself. But I would never say it to a stranger in or out of uniform. I have only used it as a rejoinder by saying "and thanks for yours" when someone said it to me. Some who say it really mean it. But unfortunately some others are chickenhawks like Cheney and Wolfowitz who are just chanting those words like some political mantra they heard on Fox.

  10. Good post, Mike

    The 1926 Congressional Proclamation which first set aside Nov 11 as "Armistice Day" included:

    Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

    Funny how the original intent has been perverted in some quarters by glorifying war or partisan jingoism, as mike so aptly mentions. I prefer the Brit/Canadian approach to Remembrance Day myself. The Queen carries the wreath herself, and bows at the Cenotaph, an act she only does at the burial of a fellow reigning monarch and to the altar in Church.

    Here in Greece, there is not one day when veterans and or fallen military are remembered, but at least two, OXI! day and Greek Independence Day, both of which include memorial services at the neighborhood memorial monument, and one minute of silence and appropriate prayers are said. As in the UK, wreaths are placed at the monument. Our little village has an memorial obelisk in the square at the church where this takes place.

    1. Al -

      We here in America could use a No! Day.

      Thanks for your quote from '26 proclamation. We should do more on that day to perpetuate peace and goodwill. I hope to use that and read it aloud next year at a small ceremony we indulge in here to solemnize that day. Or perhaps print it up and pass it out with the poppies.

      As Lisa has said, not here but on another blog: the last Monday in May is to commemorate those who died in our wars - 11 November is for celebrating the survivors and advocating peace. That was how my family celebrated it when I was a boy. Could not have worked though as I enlisted at 17.

  11. mike

    I am amazed at the general confusion in the US over the two commemorative days, but since they are primarily seen simply as "holidays" and "Sale Days", it's not surprising.

    I no longer hold my tongue on a Vespa forum I help moderate when someone says something like, "Today is the day we remember our fallen...." on Nov 11 or "Thanks to all our veterans", on Memorial Day. Interestingly, the Brit, Aussie, Canuck forum members are generally more informed on US practice, probably due to the different application of the Nov commemoration and a willingness to learn why.

  12. Yeah, Al, you'd think it would be pretty easy to tell the two apart considering the holiday names are self-explanatory.

  13. Andy

    It's difficult to answer you without going into a rant about how ignorant and/or stupid the general population of the US can be.

    One of the major veteran's organizations has been pleading for Memorial Day to be returned to May 30, as the current "long weekend" practice has morphed it into the "Memorial Day Weekend", and the retail world has co-opted it for sales promotion purposes.

    Add to that the Bush Administration's elevation of everything military to "hero" status, and with a military bent becomes blurred from the original purpose.

    But my all time favorite is Easter. A majority of Americans, to include so called Christians, have no idea how the date of Easter is calculated, why it is calculated that way, why there are two different calculations (East and West), when that calculation was established and by whom. More so, I have heard more than one person say, "Easter isn't a holiday because we don't get Monday off", or the converse, "We should get the following Monday off, just like when Christmas or Veterans' Day is on Sunday."

    Hallmark calendars and WalMart advertizements are what these celebrations are all about.

    But on a brighter note, the weather was lovely today, and perfect to riding my Vespa. Just had to limit my grocery shopping to the size of my cargo case. Plenty of time to see friends and chat.

  14. Since I don't think the question was answered regarding Germany, it has such a day - called "Volkstrauertag" - sort of "national day of mourning". Introduced in the 20s, it was then celebrated on the 5th Sunday before Easter, the first was celebrated in late February. It had initially been suggested by the German War Graves Commission as a day of contemplation, and remembrance of the suffering war brings about. But in the environment of the Weimar Republic, everyone and their mother immediately had their own ideas as to what the "spirit of the fallen" wanted people to believe.

    Of course, with the rise of the Nazis, they immediately moved to transform the day into "Heldengedenktag" - a day to remember the "heroes".

    Consequentially, after the war, the GDR transformed the day into a day of remembrance for the victims of fascism whereas western Germany brought the day back to its roots again. To detach it further from the hero worship of the Nazis, it was moved, to the end of the ecclesiastical year. As a matter of fact, I write these lines on this year's "Volkstrauertag". The scope was also widened to include, just as in Eastern Germany, the victims of oppression.

    Evidently, Germany has quite some issues with military "celebrations" for historical reasons.