Monday, November 12, 2007

Some thoughts on Veterans Day

On November 11, 1918, The War to End All Wars came to a conclusion when a general armistice between the Central Powers and the Entente went into effect.

Hmm. The War to End All Wars. That didn’t exactly work out, did it?

Americans have fought in many wars since then. And the other day, while I was stuck in traffic behind a Hummer with a “Support Our Troops” bumper sticker, it occurred to me that as a nation we have odd ways of supporting our veterans.

Generally speaking, we crap on them. We’ve been crapping on them for a long time, in fact. I’m not very well read on anything earlier, but I know plenty of Civil War veterans were crapped on. I know lots of World War I veterans were crapped on – in fact, wasn’t it our old buddy Doug MacArthur who chased them around Washington, DC with some bayonet-toting troopers? That’s a hell of a thank-you.

On Saturday I bundled Junior Destructo Man off to a model train show at the National Guard Armory here in town. He wasn’t so much interested in the large vendor section, but he was fascinated by the two working layouts they had setup in one of the side rooms. He stood and watched the larger scale train (S-Gauge?) for maybe 20 minutes before he even blinked. It didn’t help that the thing went “chug-chug” and “toot-toot” when the operator pushed a button on his transformer console. Bloody hell, I suppose I see what the future replacement for Thomas the Tank Engine will be.

What’s all of this got to do with Veterans Day?

Well, as we were leaving the building there were a couple of railroaders standing around, talking loudly (half deaf from the train whistles, I suppose). One of them was expounding on the proper treatment of military veterans.

“I was in the Marines in Vietnam, and when I came home they [crapped] on me,” one of them announced. “All these whiners today need to just shut up. We’re going to [crap] on them, too.”

Juan Carlos, of course, is a sponge for new sounds so I hope at some point in the near future I don’t have to talk him out of shouting [crap] at the top of his lungs. Be that as it may, it was just kind of sad (and a bit aggravating) to hear a veteran express such resignation. Or was it something more base? I had it crappy, so you’re going to have it crappy too. That would be even more sad.

Obviously, the politicians out there didn’t keep their heads down during the Sunday and Monday events that mark Veterans Day. They should have gone into hiding instead of parading around spouting off a bunch of [crap]. The way we treat our veterans is a national embarrassment.

It is our shame as a nation that a millionaire (as most of them are) can squat on his ass in the well-guarded US Senate for six years and then collect more retirement bennies (which he likely doesn’t really need) than a service veteran who, let’s say for example, has had his leg blown off in the defense of our country.

But back to the train show.

I had parked my pickup truck off to the side of the Armory building. About 30 feet away on the grass sat what remained of a decommissioned Sherman tank – you know the kind of junkchunk they usually park around Guard armories.

“Daddy, whazzat?” Juan Carlos asked. About 20 times in the span of ten seconds.

So I walked over to the rusting green junk pile, and talked to my two-year-old for a few minutes about what it once had been, and the brave men who had served in it and the evil they had defeated. And I thought about my Dad, who served in the Navy; my Papaw Edwards, the gentleman-farmer who fought in the Great War and about all of the other veterans I’ve known over the years who are now gone from this Earth.

God Bless them all. I’ll try to do better for them.

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