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Veterans' Day                                       This page first appeared on this site November 10, 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               This page last updated November 11, 2012


We have placed here our messages from Veterans' Days, as a convenience so folk need not hunt through Archives.
 
 
 

 
 
Publishers' Note: the blog was turned over to "our" Marine for several days culminating in the entry for Veterans' Day 2011.  Because the entries linked together in a common thread, we have brought them all here in a single framed box.  To make it easier to go to just that last entry, we've used a font other than our usual for the entries leading into it. 
 
 

November 6

 

Our in-house veteran, a Viet Nam Marine, has all but demanded this space for the next few days.  Having known for years how strongly he feels on the subjects he has proposed to address, we feel it appropriate to turn his request to mutual advantage.  We will take the next few days to continue our recuperation and to try to finish up some things long overdue here.

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I am an overweight and out of shape, paunching and balding, angry individual who very strongly believes that "Once a Marine, always a Marine": you never get over it. If you could, you weren't a Marine in the first place, but faking it.

Three times a year, for most of 40 years, I get more angry than usual about a strong undercurrent that I live with every day.  This is one of those times.  We're approaching Veterans Day.

Growing up, it seems more homes displayed the flag on national holidays than did not.  With relatively rare exception, that is not the case today.  My grandfather, a World War One cavalryman, put up the flag on our house and his, next door.  He did so with a quiet, unstated reverence: no fanfare, no explanation.  It was something that was to be done on national holidays, observances to be noted by the society at large and all those in it.

I don't remember any parades to speak of for Veterans Day; just that reverence.  With both parents and my only uncle being World War II vets, along with a goodly number of other family members (including the grandmother that lived next door) who were all then civilians, military service  -- which I do not recall ever being particularly discussed --  was always regarded with respect.  It was not necessarily a "big deal"  -- but one might want to remember that at the peak of WWII, almost 9% of the total population was in uniform at one time --  but always worthy of respect.

Today, that seems often missing.  It is almost alarming how often I find people who do not recognize the emblems of the services, a decade into a war footing. One of the things that seems to have gotten lost from our society; like good manners.

People today seem to think everything is about them.  "Renewable energy" isn't new: the Romans were aware of how to build to get best advantage out of solar power.  Know anything about the recycling that was done in this country during WWII?  Very little "trash" made it to a land fill.

Today, service is seen as "sacrifice".  Well, not for me: it was an honorable way to "pay it forward" [before the phrase came into fashion]; it was duty, to country and the society of which I was a part.  And it has always been an Honor and a Privilege to be a United States Marine.  And more.  I sacrificed nothing: I made choices.  Those choices had consequences, as choices always do.  But I sacrificed nothing, anymore than I sacrifice cash when I buy something.

Veterans Day is one of two days a year that we (theoretically) take special note of the people who spend every day, for years, sometimes for the rest of their lives, doing our society that special form of service.  But the day will not demonstrate appropriate Honor/respect until more people get involved, at least as parade observers, who have no direct relationship to veterans, than have such connections. I cannot prove it, but I'd bet that's not what happens today; and vets are only about 7% of the population.

Do you know why Veterans Day is November 11th?  Do you know why it is always that date, to be observed on that date, no matter what day of the week it falls on?  Did you know that the State of California has given away that National Holiday [that shows a lot of respect, doesn't it]?  Explanations tomorrow.

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November 7

 

At the end of my tirade yesterday I posed a series of questions and stated I would provide explanations today.

The first question was "Do you know why Veterans Day is November 11th"?  Well, I don't know if any given reader actually did know these things, but I do know the why.  Veterans Day has morphed from Armistice Day, observed on the anniversary of the armistice that ended what we now call World War One, then known as The Great War or The War to End War, or The Worlds' War: the 11th day of the 11th month [it was also at the 11th hour of that 11th day].  The end of that horror  -- of headlong infantry charges into the relatively new weaponry of machineguns, of trench warfare and mustard gas, that all but wiped out an entire generation of young men --  was, and is, worthy of solemn remembrance.  The morphing has come to remember all the wars, and all who've fought, as generation replaced generation.

Some years back, Congress was working its wonders in order to provide more three-day weekends by observing Holy Days  -- for that is what National Holidays are; days Holy to the society, separate from any given religion --  "at convenience".  The Holy Day would be observed on the nearest Monday or Friday: why trouble yourself with silly things like the actual dates, or meanings, as long as you can get a three-day weekend?  Veterans Day was included.  But Congress took a good deal of heat on that, and after a couple of years relented, returning the observation to the actual date, no matter on what day of the week it might occur.

Which leads to the last question I offered yesterday, about California giving away the National Holiday.  Well, here again I have no way of knowing if any given reader would have been aware, but I can share that this is now what has occured.  The State government [legislature, in collusion with the executive], setting itself above the Federal government as it is wont to do, decided that it would make things easier for both state and local governments if observance of Veterans Day was offered up to local control to use as a bargaining chip with unions.  That's why, for years, while my kids were home on Veterans Day [public schools closing in order to ensure they'd keep federal funding], these assorted governments had arranged, in seeking to make things "better" for families [?], to send their mother (who worked for a governmental entity) home on another day.

 

More on this pet peeve tomorrow.

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November 8


Veterans Day is NOT about The Fallen.  There is another National Holy Day for that, called Memorial Day … that being one of the other times, each year, that I get a little crazier about service to country and language and a host of other things.

No, Veterans Day is not about The Fallen, but about those who more-or-less survived.

More-or-less?  Yes.  To give a more specific example while still painting with a wide brush, in a way, essentially, nobody made it out of my war alive.  It may be true for other "conflicts" as well, but the national disquiet over and through Viet Nam seems, at least to me, to have made it particularly true for those involved in that mess.  Oh, many people came back from that war, looking and generally acting a good deal like the people who had gone off to it: but they were not the same people.  Think in terms of the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"; pod people.

Some have characterized the change as, and attributed it to, "a loss of innocence", though I suspect that phrase may apply to the nation, perhaps even the world, at large, as much or even more than to those vets.  There is something different in the world now that war has been brought into the living rooms and even bedrooms of the country in moments like the summary execution by a point blank handgun bullet to the head of an enemy being walked down a street.  I don’t recall if the first showing was live or not, but recordings were broadcast seemingly endlessly, during the dinner hour, part of the daily news.

Veterans Day, then, is about those who, more-or-less, survived.  Bleeeep, PTSD, which nobody’d ever heard about before Viet Nam [well, there were other names for kindred maladies, like "shell-shock"], actually now has its own day … by act of Congress [guess they ran out of other things to do; you know, like budgeting, or reading proposed legislation before voting on it].

People, often "well-intentioned" people, just can’t manage that concept, apparently.  Every year, Veterans Day is turned largely on its ear so some of these misguided individuals can, I don’t know, assuage their own survivor guilt?

This last weekend, the major Sunday newspaper supplement called "Parade Magazine" ran some things related to Veterans Day.  One was about what a person might do to "say thanks" to a veteran  --  which included actually saying "thanks".  Of course, the authors and editors couldn’t resist being cutesy even about something this serious: they tagged it "11 Ways to Help Veterans on 11.11.11".  And there is a little inset bragging about Parade making a donation to Wounded Warrior Project, along with a description of how an individual can make a $10 donation by cell phone.

Wounded Warrior Project is another sore spot with me.  I am sure they are doing some good for some people … though I also confess some skepticism about how much good is being done the warriors and how much is done for those pushing their cause.  Don’t get me wrong: there is need.  That’s a big part of what irritates me about this particular thing.

See, I don’t think this a particularly good exercise of charity.  No, this should not be an exercise of charity at all.  The needs of the wounded warriors are the obligations of society, which, as I see it, are obligations that should be being addressed by our federal government, through the VA.  These wounded warriors are not charity cases: we owe. Period.

Oh, yeah: there is a mission statement for the VA.


Mission Statement

To fulfill President Lincoln's promise "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan" by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans.

 

 

 

From http://www.va.gov/about_va/ [I added the color to the quote, even as I retch at the ending language: "America's veterans".  Would that include veterans of all Latin American countries, or just North American? See "Watch Your Language".]


Maybe it’s just me, but that statement seems pretty clear.

So, instead of or in addition to whatever is being done for veterans as charity, I think I [and others] should be advocating for our society to live up to its obligations so that there is no confusion about whether a wounded warrior is or should ever be [on that basis] a charity case.

We haven’t had a draft in nearing two generations, so every one of our warriors is a volunteer.  We’ve been  -- sort of --  on a war footing for a decade, so they all have a pretty good idea of what they’re getting into.  They take on a tough job, that not everybody would want or could do if they did want it.  On the other hand, it is not without its compensations.  It is the right job for some; it serves the "employee" even as it serves the "employer".  There are a lot of intangibles.  [Money is another question, probably best reserved for another time and place.]  The people who take on this task, of serving in the Armed Forces, are not generally the kind of folk inclined to want to become or be seen as charity cases, and we owe them whatever it takes to ensure that they neither become, nor are seen as, such.

There is nothing more we can do for The Fallen, save keep their memory, and Honor that for which their lives were lost.  We can do something for the living, even as a part of that.  Veterans Day is about the living.

Going back to "Parade".  The list of things to do does not sit well here.  We won’t go over it point by point, but ask readers to take a look and then think over what has been noted here.

The next piece in the supplement that relates to vets has one feature that struck a real note with me.  Find out about that note tomorrow.

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November 9


Sunday supplement "Parade Magazine" ran a few stories related to veterans in the November 6 edition.  Not all of what was there was seen here as being laudable.

The first piece was discussed yesterday.  The second, by Lynn Sherr, was titled "Six Wars. Six Vets. Six Stories of Courage.", and [as noted yesterday] it struck a particular note with me.

The six stories are of: an Army veteran of Iraq; a WWII Navy vet; an Army vet of Afghanistan and Iraq [the only female and apparently the only officer in the group]; an Air Force vet of Desert Storm; an Army vet of Viet Nam; and an Army vet of Korea [our forgotten war; still, technically, continuing today, about 60 years after hostilities commenced… hey, doesn’t that make Korea our longest war?].  Let’s see, that’s 4 Army, 1 Navy, and 1 Air Force.  Conspicuous in absence is any of the roughly 2 million living veterans of The Few, The Proud, The Marines [less than 10% of the living veteran population; making up only about 10% of active forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, I read the other day, Marines wind up becoming over 20% of fatalities, and who knows what part of the seriously wounded…but no mention here?].  I also note that, while only deemed an Armed Force in time of war [uhh, that is what we have now, isn’t it? A time of war?] and generally not seen as such, the Coast Guard, despite admirable service in (I think) most conflicts, got ceremoniously ignored too.

Sour grapes? Possibly.  But I doubt it.  The point I am trying to make has to do with accuracy and perspective.  Perspective about Veterans Day, about veterans, about how this country sees and treats its veterans.

Do I think veterans deserve a full ride for all time, based solely on service?  No.  Do I think we as a society owe to our veterans and ourselves as individuals, pretty much whatever it takes to ensure they "succeed"?  Yes. So I find statistics like the unemployment rate for veterans in general being higher than for the population at large, just unconscionable.  [For certain age groups, the unemployment rate of vets is more than twice the general rate.  And these folk all know how to show up on time, how to work: most are skilled in a lot of things beyond cleaning a rifle.]

It also makes me a little more crazy than usual when I hear the divide-and-conquer junk about how this vet is somehow "more worthy" than the next.  Purple Heart? Means you don’t know how to duck, according to even a lot of recipients [no, I do not have one].  I mean no disrespect to anybody who has been awarded a Purple Heart [well, maybe: I suspect I will never understand how one can get 3 Purple Hearts in a matter of about 5 months, and never need a day off from work; something there just strikes me as wrong].  But nobody  -- well, nobody in their right mind --  goes looking to get a Purple Heart.  Frankly, it is [all things else being equal] to be avoided; it just doesn’t always work out that way [particularly as regards the "all things else being equal" part].  At least in earlier days, as much or more, as often as not, the wound that is basis for a Purple Heart is result of actions of the enemy rather than actions of the individual(recipient). Not always true, but always worthy of consideration.  [On the other hand, as I understand it, the criteria are being changed; kind of "grade creep" for salad on the military uniform.  Make note; reportedly, fewer medals were awarded the 3 million members of our Armed Forces in Viet Nam over 13 years, than were awarded the roughly half million people who took part in the roughly 7 months (about 100 hours of combat) of Gulf War 1].  But, while there is some validity to differences among veterans, even things like the difference between being a Viet Nam vet v being a Viet Nam Era vet [9 million Era vets, 3 million in-country vets: much of that may not have been of the choosing of the individual], vets have more in common than not.  Is the guy who spent the bulk of his waking hours in the belly of a B52 during The Cold War somehow less a veteran than a guy who took live-fire while standing duty in a guard post on the Korean DMZ [last year, perhaps]?  Is the guy who didn’t get hit running up a beach on D-Day, and never did get hit while getting shot at every day until the end of WWII, somehow less a veteran than a guy who, running next to him on that same beach, got hit, med-evaced, fully recovered, and spent the rest of the war stateside in an office?  That would not make a great deal of sense to me [but I am not always the brightest bulb in the box].

There are differences.  No doubt about that. But in terms of being "veterans", these seem largely inconsequential.

I will speak to a difference that I find of greater consequence tomorrow.
 

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November 10


Happy Birthday, Marines!


Those who’ve read the last few days entries into this blog will please note that this is a difference between veterans that is of consequence. While every Marine is a veteran, not every veteran is a Marine.  As noted yesterday, Marines make up less than 10% of the living vets in this country today.

Now, the Navy has a birthday in October: the Air Force in mid-September; and the Army shares its birthday with everybody in the country, letting everybody celebrate Flag Day.  And I have to confess that I do not know if those birthdays are seen as a big deal by those services.

But the Marine Corps Birthday is a very big deal for Marines. It is essentially a High Holy Day in The Corps.  Perhaps because The Corps has played touch-n-go with its own end so many times in its history [and may be about to do so once again; budgets have never been kind to The Corps…which could, at least in part, explain why, up to 1970 or so and perhaps beyond, The Corps always ran essentially under budget, returning funds at the end of the year]. The Marine Corps Birthday is observed and celebrated throughout The Corps and even has its own traditions (The Corps is very big on Tradition).

The Marine Corps Birthday is November 10th. So, when folk insist on disrespect for the end of WWI by fudging the date for Armistice Day and crowding into November 10th, they are also giving away the Birthday party held for the millions of members of a very special club, United States Marines.

Now, in many families it’s just fine to celebrate a birthday on a day that is not necessarily the specific date but more convenient or practical for the family in general.  Not all families operate that way, but certainly some do. In such situations, it is usually with the permission of the individual most immediately concerned; the birthday girl or boy.

But The Corps takes The Birthday seriously […or did: some actions in recent years suggest a lapse].  While there have been assorted rewritings of history over time, for nearly a century The Corps has celebrated its birthday, in high fashion, on November 10th, the day the first Continental Marines came into being at Tun Tavern in 1775 [note: that pre-dates the Declaration of Independence, let alone The Constitution].

In describing The Birthday and its signature event, The Birthday Ball, in his 2001 book "Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines", Marion F. Sturkey wrote (in part):

Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual Birthday Ball has evolved from simple origins to the polished and professional functions of today. Nonetheless, one thing remains constant, the tenth day of November! This unique holiday for warriors is a day of camaraderie, a day to honor Corps and Country. Throughout the world on 10 November, U.S. Marines celebrate the birth of their Corps -- the most loyal, most feared, most revered, and most professional fighting force the world has ever known.

The case has been made: The Marine Corps Birthday is, and has long been, a big deal, at least to [most] Marines [General Amos; are you listening?].  And the party is for Marines, and their special guests.  It is not for the population at large: not even for veterans at large; it is for Marines.  It’s our Birthday.

Which is part of why I get a little disquieted over the dates: November 10th is not November 11th.  And I subscribe to that stuff on this Usann.us site about language being a poor tool but the best we’ve got for communication ["Watch Your Language"]; that we must, as many of our parents taught: "Say what you mean, mean what you say".  In this case, November 11th is Veterans Day, not to be confused with November 10th, The Marine Corps Birthday: each is a specific day, with huge significance in its own right and for its own audience; and each worthy of being noted with respect throughout society at large.

Happy Birthday, Marines.

Scheduled for tomorrow; a few more comments about Veterans Day, on … Veterans Day [it’s already written: look for it early].

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November 11, 2011

 

 

 


For several days now, I have been granted space in this blog on Usann.us to rant about Veterans Day and some associated things, for which I thank the owner of the site.

 

The last couple of days, I wrote in part about some articles in the latest edition of the Sunday supplement "Parade Magazine". I have one more to get off my chest at the moment. The last of the articles was titled "Why We Serve", written by Gen. Colin L. Powell.

 

It opens well enough, but starts coming a bit disjointed [a headline not quite fitting?] in the beginnings of the second paragraph: "Over the years, Americans have chosen to serve for many reasons…" Sorry, General; in going along with the wishes expressed on the Usann.us site, regarding language and the term Usann, I have to take exception. Not just because "American" could just as well describe Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as just about anybody in this country, but because it neglects a significant fact of which the general should be aware: historically, from as few as 5% (now) to as much as 50% of the personnel in the Armed Forces of The United States of America have not been "Americans"; they may have included South Americans and/or Central Americans added to North Americans, possibly from every one of the 3 dozen nations in The Americas and more; they were foreign-born non-citizens from any number of countries.

Powell then brought in the families. This is a hot-button issue for me, for a number of reasons. One thing is that families are expensive, both in dollars and in morale. If you have a family, which in theory has wonderful physical and psychological benefits, you get paid more than somebody who doesn’t? That has to be backwards, ‘cause the individual without family is not likely going to be worrying about a family he doesn’t have while another guy may very well worry about a family he does. War is a young -- and "short-tailed" -- mans’ game [in The Corps, "If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, it would have issued you one" is a sermon heard by many recruits…repeatedly]. This is not "Families of Veterans Day"; it is Veterans Day. Certainly the argument can and has been made, that "They also serve who only stand and waite." [John Milton] In some ways perhaps there may be some truth to that [definition of a hero: spouse of a Viet Nam veteran who is still with said vet], but it is a bit of an inappropriate stretch for this context. I ain’t buying it.

Then he hits gold, sharing it: "Establishing memorials is one way that Americans [oops] can repay the debt owed to the people who have died serving this country. But we also bear a similar obligation to the survivors of our nation’s conflicts, our veterans." Powell goes on to suggest saying thank you to a vet -- I take exception, ‘cause talk is cheap and it’s now become "popular", even trite, rather than truly appreciative -- and "support one of the many organizations that assist former service members". In this last I concur, with the caveat that, as I pointed out a day or two ago here [and have been doing for years], none of this is about charity and, as Powell has noted in this article, this is an obligation; we should be getting this done, as a society, through the VA.

 

So call and/or write a member of Congress about ensuring that vets don’t get skewered as has been too often the case. You are thinking "sour grapes" again? No; history. After what has come to be known as The American Revolution, a lot of vets had trouble getting what had been promised; they even had trouble getting paid -- even fed and otherwise supplied -- during the conflict. Not long after the Civil War [such interestingly euphemistic names, we give our wars], while Lincoln had wanted to care for the soldier, a statute was passed -- allegedly to protect veterans from predatory lawyers -- that limited the amount a veteran could pay an attorney to represent him in dealing with the government over his benefits/claims: the limit was $10, and was still effective, at that same $10 level, for at least 120 years [I count myself blessed that I have not had to know for a while, and hope I never again do]. The WWI vets, who were admittedly pushing the envelope in seeking desperately needed early payment of a promised bonus, faced then-current troops that were called in to send them home. WWII [and a little later] vets intentionally exposed to atomic bomb radiation [and, if memory serves, other experimentation] were denied health care and disability claims related to those specific incidents. Veterans of "the Korean conflict" have struggled, many for decades, with health care issues as well, often with long-term damage from frostbite; and there were infamous experiments with LSD. Who does not associate the terms "Agent Orange" and "Viet Nam"? That has become a real disaster, starting with denials of there being any problems, then into dilution of the pool [conveniently "juggling the books"], now to having a number of conditions being automatically presumed to be service-related. Have you heard the term "Gulf War Syndrome"? First the denials, then science started to catch up and prove real physical existence; the pattern is so consistent that I haven’t even bothered to see where this one has traveled.

 

In each of these, the needs of vets were largely considered secondarily; obligations of society were dismissed, often with too many veterans dying before any beneficial action from the government served ever took place. For many years, for many vets, it was believed that delay was intentional, as claims died when the vets did.

 

Things have improved a great deal over the years, in at least some areas of operations. In fact, today, the pendulum may have swung too far, now looking too kindly on "returning heroes". I think that may come back to haunt the entire veteran population in the near future, as Congress tries to finally take some fiscal control of itself [can you say "SuperCommittee"?], to the extent that VA medical care [which would seem a likely place to have expanded a national care system already geared to a significant chunk of the population (about 20 million), as through inclusion of families (might get to about 60 million), before deciding to take on the entirety of care for everybody in the country (300+ million); but what do I know?] may well be cut back, returning it to some less-than-laudable levels. [It was quite "normal", 20 to 30 years ago, to wait for an appointment for many hours after the scheduled time; yet somehow, it seems everybody managed to "be seen" by end of the business day?].

 

I remember well a man I didn’t know all that well. Another Marine, a recipient of a meritorious Bronze Star in Viet Nam but just couldn’t get it together once "back in the world". All he did or wanted to do was to watch tv and eat and sometimes go fishing (I have never known where he got what little money he did). When last I saw him, he was living in the garage of another Marine [a tunnel rat in Viet Nam], and doing poorly. The other Marine and I both tried to get him to go to the VA hospital; he wouldn’t go. He never used any of his benefits; not at all. He said he knew he needed to go to a doctor but was afraid, afraid they wouldn’t let him leave and he couldn’t handle that. A few days later, he had died on the couch in the garage, and it took 5 or 6 people to lift his over 600 pounds out of there.

 

Whatever it was that he needed, he didn’t get. We didn’t get it to him. We owed it, whatever it was; but we didn’t get it to him, and we lost him and whatever he might have become, forever, long before he died.

 

So this Veterans Day, please, consider doing something nice -- with a bit of respect and a sense of decorum -- for a veteran. Don’t confuse Veterans Day with The Marine Corps Birthday [the 10th] or with Memorial Day, the observance for The Fallen. And do it, understanding as Powell wrote: "…when you wake up the next day, Nov. 12, remember that it’s still Veterans Day for our veterans -- and it will be every day of their lives."

 

 

 

My thanks to the publisher of this site for the opportunity to rant. I hope reading it has done somebody else some good, preferably many times "somebody else", and even more good than it has done me to write it. I "now return control of your television set" [from "The Outer Limits" tv show] -- errrr, this blog -- to more appropriate parties.

 

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Publishers' Note: What follows is adapted from a piece written by "our" veteran that we published last year. 
 
 

November 11, 2012
 

 

 

Veterans’ Day.  Both a happy and a somber occasion.
 

And so confused.  An awful lot of people seem to think this is about the dead, particularly those who died in service, most particularly those who died in combat.  Not true.  This day is celebrated in honor of those who served and more or less survived, survive still; living veterans.  Veterans of the Armed Forces of The United States of America.  Not "veteran" campaigners, or whatevers: veterans of the Armed Forces of The United States of America…which, by the way, have historically included from as few as 5% (now) to as much as 50% of personnel, individuals who were not citizens of this country; they were foreign-born non-(US-) citizens from any number of countries.

We often hear a great deal about "the sacrifices they [the veterans] make for us".  Sacrifice occurs, to be sure; but rarely.  For the most part, particularly since there hasn’t been a draft in generations, there are trade-offs, exchanges, choices…but little by way of sacrifice.  There is the occasional jumping on the grenade, genuine sacrifice.  But it is a rarity.

And of course there is an ever increasing din for "the sacrifices" of the families (of veterans?  Not usually.  Nope; not in the ordinary sense of the word.  The families noised about are generally of the active duty personnel.  Well, there are the families of the severely disabled, as in the obnoxious and ubiquitous commercials for Wounded Warrior Project; while the idea being promoted is of meeting our societal obligations to such individuals, please note that the backdrop is "Pray a prayer for Peace", a pacifist position rather than a support for a warrior.  Worse, this society does have an obligation to these individuals  -- note we used the term "individuals" rather than "families" --  but as a society, that is, through the same government that brought the harm: the wounded warrior is not a charity case and ought never be thought of as such or put in such a position .

Back to families: they are expensive, both in dollars and in morale when on active duty.  If you have a family, which in theory has wonderful physical and psychological benefits, you get paid more than somebody who doesn’t?  That has to be backwards, ‘cause the individual without family is not likely going to be worrying about a family he doesn’t have while another guy may very well worry about a family he does.  War is a young  -- and "short-tailed" --  mans’ game [in The Corps, "If the Marine Corps wanted you to have a wife, it would have issued you one" is a sermon heard by many recruits…repeatedly].  This is not "Families of Veterans Day"; it is Veterans Day.  If the pay is too little or the base housing not what a family might most like, that is an issue that needs to be taken up with the family member who is on active duty: it is their job, their employment, their choice; leave the employer out of the personal problems, please.

Certainly the argument can and has been made, that "They also serve who only stand and waite." [John Milton] In some ways perhaps there may be some truth to that [definition of a hero: spouse of a Viet Nam veteran who is still with said vet], but it is a bit of an inappropriate stretch for this context.  It sort of goes with the territory, just as separations are part of the deal for long-haul truckers, or commercial fishermen…lots of danger in those jobs, too.

 

This is a hot-button issue around here, for a number of reasons.  Some of them can be explained by working from an article Colin Powell wrote a year or two ago, which in part said that: "Establishing memorials is one way that Americans [oops; see comment above about non-citizens in the Armed Forces] can repay the debt owed to the people who have died serving this country.  But we also bear a similar obligation to the survivors of our nation’s conflicts, our veterans."  Powell went on to suggest saying thank you to a vet, but we take exception   -- ‘cause talk is cheap and it’s now become "popular", even trite, rather than truly appreciative --  and "support one of the many organizations that assist former service members".  In this last we concur, with the caveat that, as noted above, none of this is about charity and, as Powell noted, this is an obligation; we should be getting this done, as a society [most likely through the VA].

 

So call and/or write a member of Congress about ensuring that vets don’t get skewered as has been too often the case and may well be again as taxmageddon and sequestration loom.  Some history: after what has come to be known as The American Revolution, a lot of vets had trouble getting what had been promised; they even had trouble getting paid  -- or fed and otherwise supplied --  during the conflict.  Not long after the Civil War [such interestingly euphemistic names, we give our wars], while Lincoln had wanted to care for the soldier, a statute was passed  -- allegedly to protect veterans from predatory lawyers --  that limited the amount a veteran could pay an attorney to represent him in dealing with the government over his benefits/claims: the limit was $10, and was still effective, at that same $10 level despite the change in the value of a dollar, for something like 120 years.  WWI vets, who were admittedly pushing the envelope in seeking desperately needed early payment of a promised bonus, faced then-current troops that were called in to send them home.  WWII [and a little later] vets intentionally exposed to atomic bomb radiation [and, if memory serves, other experimentation] were denied health care and disability claims related to those specific incidents.  Veterans of "the Korean conflict" have struggled, many for decades, with health care issues as well, often with long-term damage from frostbite; and there were infamous experiments with LSD.  Who does not associate the terms "Agent Orange" and "Viet Nam"?  That has become a real disaster, starting with denials of there being any problems, then into dilution of the pool [conveniently "juggling the books"], now to having a number of conditions being automatically presumed to be service-related. Have you heard the term "Gulf War Syndrome"?  First the denials, then science started to catch up and prove real physical existence.  The pattern is frighteningly consistent.

In each of these, the needs of vets were largely considered secondarily.  Obligations of society were dismissed, often with too many veterans dying before any beneficial action from the government served ever took place.  For many years, for many vets, it was believed that delay was intentional, as claims died when the vets did.

Things have improved a great deal over the last few decades, in at least some areas of operations.  In fact, today, in some ways the pendulum may have swung too far, now looking too kindly on "returning heroes".  That may come back to haunt the entire veteran population in the near future, as Congress tries to finally take some fiscal control of itself [can you say "SuperCommittee", "fiscal cliff"?], to the extent that VA medical care may well be cut back, returning it to some less-than-laudable levels. [It was quite "normal", 20 to 30 years ago, to wait for an appointment for many hours after the scheduled time; oddly, as a rule, somehow, it seems everybody managed to "be seen" by end of the business day?] [Obamacare is now the law of the land: how that will work with VA is yet to be seen.  We think the VA would have seemed a likely place to have expanded a national care system already geared to a significant chunk of the population (about 20 million), as through inclusion of families (might get to about 60 million), before deciding to take on the entirety of care for everybody in the country (300+ million). But we aren’t running things.]

 

The Marine around here sometimes speaks of another Marine, one he didn’t know all that well but thinks of often.  A recipient of a meritorious Bronze Star in Viet Nam, he just couldn’t get it together once "back in the world"; all he did or wanted to do was to watch tv and eat and sometimes go fishing (nobody seems to know where he got what little money he sometimes had: it might have been "general assistance").  When last seen, he was living in the garage of yet another Marine [a tunnel rat in Viet Nam], and doing poorly.  The two other Marines tried to get him to go to the VA hospital because it was apparent he needed medical attention; he wouldn’t go.  He never used any of his benefits; not at all.  He said he knew he needed to go to a doctor but was afraid, afraid they wouldn’t let him leave and he couldn’t handle that.  A few days later, he had died on a couch in the garage.  It took 5 or 6 people to lift his over 600 pounds out of there.

Whatever it was that he needed, he didn’t get.  We didn’t get it to him.  We owed it, whatever it was; but we didn’t get it to him, and we lost him and whatever he might have become, forever, long before he died.
 

So this Veterans Day, please, consider doing something nice  -- with a bit of respect and a sense of decorum --  for a veteran.  Don’t confuse Veterans Day with The Marine Corps Birthday [the 10th] or with Memorial Day, the observance for The Fallen.  And do it, understanding as Powell wrote: "…when you wake up the next day, Nov. 12, remember that it’s still Veterans Day for our veterans -- and it will be every day of their lives." 
 
                                                                            +≠&
 


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