Monday, May 25, 2015
Remembrances on Memorial Day
Thus far, I've have lived to see the last of the veterans from the Spanish American War pass away; the last participant of the Battle of Wounded Knee, the last of the WWI veterans, and will likely see the last the WWII veteran who are dying at a rate of 3400 a week. Many of us will likely see the last of those who served in Korea too pass away too. Nevertheless, I have had the honor to meet several WWI soldiers, plus numerous WWII veterans; many in their 90's. A few were Japanese POWs, captured in the Philippines and forced to participate in the notorious Bataan Death March. I've had the privilege to know individuals who fought in North Africa; who landed at Normandy on June 6th, 1944; British veterans who survived Arnhem during Operation Market Garden; who fought at Bastogne during the Battle of Bulge, as well as countless individuals who fought in Korea and Vietnam, including former POWs, "tunnel rats", snipers, along with others who were awarded the Purple Heart..I had the privilege of meeting Paul Tibbets, the aircraft commander of the "Enola Gay" and was a "Volunteer Crewman" for the day on the famous B-17 bomber, the "Memphis Belle" while on static display in Memphis, Tennessee. I have come to know survivors of Nazi concentration camps and simply marveled at the resilience of the human condition. I've been lucky enough to get the unique opportunity to meet individuals who fought in Rommel's vaulted Afrika Korp in North Africa; who served in the Kreigsmarine aboard the ill fated DKM Bismarck, fought on the Eastern Front and survived the Battle at Stalingrad, who fought in the Battle of Berlin, as well as those who risked all to fight for Israel's independence in 1948. Their brief moments on the stage of history were often as humble as they were humbling to listen to. Amazing individuals all.
While I was in the Navy and just afterwards, I got to know individuals from the British Marines, the Canadian Navy, the US Navy's SEALs, as well as Army Rangers and Green Berets. I became friends with several individuals serving in US Marine Force Reconnaissance. I got to spend time with some of those who are now considered our nation's enemies and some who remain our allies, including air crews from Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt as well as the Israeli Mossad and Shin Beth. Perhaps the greatest honor was attending the retirement of a certain Master Chief. This individual was straight out of boot camp when he arrived at Pearl Harbor on December 6th. He had hoped to spend some leave time touring the islands, but that wasn't too be as we all know what happened the next morning. He went on to complete 30 years active duty before transferring to the Navy Reserves. I met him on the day he was finally retiring and got to spend an hour with him before his discharge ceremony. I even got to met a former member of the Russian special forces, the Spetsnaz.
Some people claim that war is Man's highest calling. We see Man's nature at its worse and at its most noble. Personally, I agree that war shows the depth and height of Man's duality. We are at once incredibly humane and caring while at the same butchers. Mankind is more often than not a cruel species. We are past masters in the arts of death. Even our holy books are full of bloodshed. Unlike most species, which kills to survive, we kill for the sport (and occasionally for food). We fight over the possession of land or mineral rights which ultimately returns to nature. We may fight over another individual's actions; actions that we have no control over and an individual whom we can never truly possess. We fight over possessions or money; both of which are only temporary given our limited life spans. We commit act of cruelty over religion without understanding the nature of God without even understanding the irony of our actions.
Today's "friend" or ally may quickly be tomorrow's enemy, depending on their economic usefulness and cooperation. If you have any doubts, consider this---since 1898, the US has actively overthrown or helped to destabilize some 35+ countries, including Syria, Iraq, Iran Turkey, South Vietnam, Brazil, Nicaragua, Indonesia, Cuba, Venezuela, Congo, Guatemala, or the Dominican Republic. Most, if not all these, were at the behest of a transnational corporation, while others were removed because the people of these countries elected an individual or political party that the US Government (and its corporate handlers) didn't agree with (usually a popular elected Democratic Socialist or Communist government). In return, we installed or provided support to a right wing military junta which usually resulted in the suppression of freedoms, murders or disappearances of millions, and the systematic looting of national treasuries and misuse of American taxpayer provided aid). Is it little wonder that the American Government (though not necessary Americans) is so despised throughout the world today or that no country has chosen to emulate the American form of government? I think the answer is quite obvious.
Lastly, for those who are "offended" at the sight of the American flag, be it on a tee shirt or flying from someone's home or in a
Suicide Rate Among Veterans and Active Duty Military Jumps