Veterans Day 2011
When I think of a potently bad combination, I think of me being in the military. Way, way, way too much authoritarianism, hierarchy, and chicken-shit. Not that I didn’t encounter plenty of that in the business world, but at least I didn’t have to salute and no one was going to throw me in the brig if I went AWOL.
About all I can say for my being a good fit for the armed service is that, after all those years in parochial school, I wouldn’t have been bothered by wearing a uniform. I also like to think that, if there had been a national crisis, some national purpose (think World War II), when I was young enough to serve, I might have considered signing up and doing my bit. But it didn’t happen, so I didn’t have to make any decision one way or the other. The “national crisis” during my potentially military years was the Viet Nam War, which was not exactly something that was going to get this girl volunteering to work in the steno pool at Lackland AFB.
But I’m the daughter of a veteran, from whom I learned that, in the service, there is way, way, way too much authoritarianism, hierarchy, and chicken-shit. And from whom I also learned that it was a matter of duty, pride, and honor to serve when there was a national crisis, a national purpose, in which everyone had a bit to do. Which is why my father, although he was 29 at the time and quite a ways from any draft catching up with him, volunteered soon after Pearl Harbor. The Army rejected him: flat feet, he couldn’t march. But the Navy took him, and he spent four years there, “going where Uncle Sam sent you.” Which, for my father, was Newport Virginia, Trinidad, and downtown Chicago.
While stationed in Chicago, he met my mother. And the rest is (family) history.
So while I’m not myself a vet, I do want to wish a happy (and peaceful) Veterans’ Day to those who are (both those who served in time or war, and those who idled around in time of No Time for Sergeants, Sgt. Bilko, and Beetle Bailey). With a special shout-out to the veterans I do know, a roster which – off the top of my head – includes Dick, Bob, Joe D, Phil, Steve, Eddie, Paul and John. And with a special posthumous nod to Joe W, dead years too soon from Agent Orange and the terrible and dreadful war that Viet Nam was.
In the U.S., poppies are associated with Memorial Day, but in England, they’re the flower for Remembrance Day, which is what the Brits call November 11th. Wars are all hell, but World War I, which ended 90 years ago at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, was perhaps more hellish than most. More senseless. More insane.
Which is not to say that the men (and women) who fight them aren’t brave in a way I’ve never needed to be.
Happy Veterans’ Day to all.
Here’s a link to an earlier Veterans’ Day post.