Skepticism

Afternoon Inquisition 11.11- Veterans Day Edition

I’ve always been a big fan of today’s US holiday, Veterans Day. In other parts of our small world today is Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day.  

Today’s not about war or winning, or justice or conflict. It’s not even about nationalism.  Today is about being grateful and aware of the commitment of the people who serve. It’s a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.

I’m an Army brat.  My folks are retired US Army Lieutenant Colonels; my brother and grandfather also volunteered to serve.  Veterans all, I deeply respect that they had the sense of community and responsibility that I seemingly do not:  there is not one little atom of my being that could take that oath.  I’m too damn selfish.

So, although it’s officially about military veterans, today I’m asking:

What veterans inspire and impress you?  What sacrifices, for what causes, did they make that resonate with you?    What’s worth fighting for, in your eyes?

[And, to my family, and all Veterans: thank you for your service.  We would have nothing without your sacrifice.]

a.real.girl

A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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36 Comments

  1. My little brother is currently a Major in the army and a vet of the Iraq war. I respect and admire him greatly for his service, and through him, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many other verterans.

    I’d probably never be good as a military type, but the safety and freedom of my loved ones and fellow man in my eyes is worth fighting for.

  2. I admire the ability veterans and military folks in general have to work hard and as a cohesive team with each doing what needs to be done to ensure the best chance of success. I have such a poor work ethic and an overblown sense of entitlement, working the way soldiers work seems incredible to me.

    That alone would be enough to say I’d make a bad soldier. Throw in my strong anti-authority streak and general hatred of being told what to do and, well, I’d be thrown out in no time.

    I don’t know what I’d consider worth fighting for, as far as that part goes. I mean peace, safety, freedom, etc are great but I am such a pampered, spoiled brat that it’d take an AWFUL lot of SUCK for me to be able to get up the ire or desire to fight.

    As sad as it sounds, I think that my life or those of my immediate family would have to be in immediate, inescapable danger for me to want to fight. Which is all the more reason to admire those who can do it on principle!

  3. My grandfather was in the 101st airborne in WWII. He fought at D-day and at the Battle of the Bulge. He earned several medals including a bronze star and a silver star. I have always admired him greatly. My own time in service was a fucking cake walk compared to what he did.

  4. My grandfathers, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, my friends, and my parents- Amongst them, they have all the service branches covered several times over. I’m a Navy brat, child of spooks.

    Time away from family and friends is the constant sacrifice that they make during their time serving. Sometimes in situations where your family can’t even know where you are or what you’re doing. The strength shown by military members and their families during times of separation has always amazed me.

  5. My eldest brother fought in the Navy in Vietnam. He was just a kid when he went over. He volunteered; he had no idea what he was getting into.

    He came home alive with no injuries (thankfully), but he did not come back whole. All these years later, you can still see how what he went through changed him.

    I don’t know many of the details. I was just a baby when he came back. But I know a little, and I know that I would have never survived what he went through. I often wonder what he would have been like without the war.

    I think of what he went through, and I think of our young people over in Iraq and Afganistan. Political statements aside, I can’t imagine fighting in these wars. Each of these young people had their own reasons for going – some are doing what they believe in – some are there because they didn’t know what they were getting into (like my brother), some regret it – some don’t regret it.

    I don’t know how I feel about the why’s and how’s of it. But I do know that each of them is doing a job that I never could. Whatever the results, whatever their motivations – I am proud of each of them. I wish each of our soldiers, and their families the best outcome possible.

  6. My brother served 2 tours in Afghanistan and has been in the military about 20 years. My father was a peacekeeper overseas for years before I was born and served with the military for about 35 years. My grandfather served in WWII and fought at D-Day. My mother was in the reserves. Many members of my extended family were/are in the military. And my fiance is currently in the military. I was not in the military, but I was part of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets for 5 years (a DND-run organization for teenagers that teaches military history among other things and encourages leadership, teaching skills, discipline, and camaraderie) and I almost went to military college.

    I guess you could say I’m used to the sacrifice needed by the families and members of the military. But I wish we lived in a world where it was not necessary to train people to kill each other, but unfortunately we do not. And I wish that it wasn’t necessary to have to send our troops to protect other nations for months at a time while we sit at home waiting to hear something.

    I respect those who have had to endure those hardships and do what they had to in order to survive. I respect those who return and are able to have healthy discussions about their experiences, despite being inches from death. And I respect those who can’t because it’s just too much. I respect those who are not in combat doing all of the other jobs necessary for a successful campaign and those who are serving as a non-combat presence to maintain peace — right down to the girl/guy who cleans the latrines.

    What is worth fighting for (and this may not be what was meant by the question, but I choose to misinterpret) is more support for troops and their families during and after conflicts. We ask them to defend us, and others, and then when they get home and need funds to pay for their therapy, wheelchairs, etc they have to fight tooth and nail (again) to get it.

    And what I don’t respect is the people who sit in their heated home, in their comfy developed nation coming out on only the sunny days to protest against the troops, shitting on that very freedom these troops have helped provide. While I agree with their right to protest, I don’t have to like who they are protesting against. (To clarify, it is a different thing to protest against government sending people to war than to protest the actual troops fighting. It’s the latter that grinds my gears, not the former.)

  7. (What Kimbo said)

    While I’m certainly impressed with many veterans I’ve known and currently have as friends and relatives, the bigger feeling I have is thankfulness and/or appreciation. I do not take my liberties, freedoms and democratic (representative republic) government lightly. And as a life long student of history I have a general contempt for those who denigrate military service or fail to recognize that at times it is necessary to take up arms against those who would deny those freedoms.

  8. @Kimbo Jones:

    And what I don’t respect is the people who sit in their heated home, in their comfy developed nation coming out on only the sunny days to protest against the troops, shitting on that very freedom these troops have helped provide.

    Do you see much of this? I only ask because I don’t. During my time in the Army and ever since I’ve met many upon many people who were actively against the war, but no one ever saying enything negative about the troops. That is, of course, excepting those who are simply deranged (i.e. Fred Phelps et al. and a few internet wackos).

    I like to think that the majority of people in this country fit more closely your description of protesting the government while having utmost sympathy and respect for the fighting soldiers.

    Great comment btw.

  9. @Detroitus: Unfortunately, yes I have seen protesting against the troops (signs, pamphlets, chanting slogans) — but like I said, they only seem to care when it’s sunny out so it’s not very often.

    They do not make up the majority. You are right, *most* people protest against the government, but some people just don’t get it. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m seeing this all the time or anything, just that it really pissed me off the few times I had seen it.

    Firstly, I think they are just anti-war in general so the troops are maybe just as bad as the government who sent them, in their eyes. Also, I think they confuse support for the troops with support for war itself. Finally, they may confuse the conflict in Afghanistan and Canada’s role there with the conflict in Iraq and America’s role there. (This is based on conversations I’ve had — I don’t want to generalize, but these are 3 major themes that crop up a lot.)

  10. My father.
    He joined the Armored Infantry when he turned 18 in 1944. After boot camp he was sent to Northern France to help push the German army out.
    His first month there (December), his unit entered a small town during a bitterly cold blizzard. Unfortunately so did a German Tank brigade. They literally came face to face on main street. My Dad was injured during the day -long battle and received a Purple Heart and Silver Star for his effort.
    My wife and I went to visit the site (Rittershoffen) two years ago on a warm May afternoon. Birds and Butterflies flew around the farm field where he was shot and as I took pictures I found myself weeping for my now deceased father. At 18, I was looking for cheap beer while he was giving his flesh and blood to save the world.

  11. @Detroitus: I have to agree with you. I got back from Kuwait and I had complete strangers walking up and thanking me for my service. Mind you I wasn’t in uniform. I imagine the haircut gave it away. It felt so weird, I had all these complete strangers thanking me for doing, well nothing really. Do you guys remember the portion of Randy Pausch’s last lecture where he talks about whining to his parents about how hard being a PHD student is and his mom says “Yes honey its hard, but just remember when your dad was your age he was fighting the germans”

  12. @Kimbo Jones: I know how it feels, you haven’t really done anyting but your job. But people are treating you like a hero and it doesn’t help the way medals are handed out now. I got 5 for serving in Kuwait. No one shot at me. All of the explosions I heard were at the wire. I had it so easy.

  13. My Granddad fought in WWII. He was a B17 bomber pilot and flew 35 missions over Germany. I’ve seen film of the flak and it was incredible…I don’t how he made through uninjured. He was married only 2 months before he was shipped to England. He was attending college majoring in aerospace engineering when the war started. He decided to enlist so he could choose what he wanted to do. A friend of mine called him a hero and my granddad said he was only doing what he had to do. I not only think of the things he sacrificed, but also my grandmother and the rest of his family.

    A few years ago, I was able to visit Bassingbourn, England where he was stationed. That was an incredible experience. I fortunate that he is still living so I can talk with him about his experiences.

  14. Well, let’s see, I have a grandfather who is a retired brigadier general in the airforce reserve. He ran Westover AFB during Desert Storm and flew rescue missions after Mt St Helen blew. His second youngest son was in the airforce for 6 years, left as a captain, was a navigator, and served in Desert Storm, I have another uncle who is a retired Seargent Major, a cousin who is a Commander in the Navy (approaching retirement), he spent a year in Iraq on a cross branch mission in Babel. Have another cousin who is a Marine. My Brother-in-Law is a captain in the U.S. Army National Guard, spent a year at Guantanamo Bay, another year in Camp Bucca, Iraq (both prison camps and he’s artillery, go figure). He’ll be going to Egypt next summer with my sister who is soon to be a captain in the National Guard, largely because after having just gotten back from Iraq he learned that she was shipping out and he figured, screw it if we can’t be together for more than a few months state side might as well spend a year in the same country. He had to sign a waiver to volunteer for this mission. He was in the navy prior to becoming an officer in the National Guard. His father was also in the Navy, so was his grandfather. Guess that all makes up for my American ancestors who were around during the Revolutionary War (not only did they not serve in the Colonial Army, they were Loyalists.) Personally, I have considered enlisting or going in as an officer, but at this time I am sticking with my software development job for a little while longer.

  15. David “Hack” Hackworth,

    Well, first and foremost is my cousin Robin, who died in Vietnam, and my other cousin Jeff, currently on his second tour in Iraq (and all of his friends). There’s never been a better group of young men.

    But then there was “Hack”.

    A war hero, who turned against war.

    A man who dedicated his life to getting a better deal for the average G.I., in spite of his convictions that most of our wars (including the ones he fought in) were just plain illegal.

    Who made Donald Rumsfield stop slapping our dead veterans families in the face by rubber stamping his signature? Hack did.

    Who stopped the Haliburton crooks from charging our fighting soldiers for movies? Hack did.

    Who pointed out the the Haliburton crooks were over charging our boys for a decent hamburger? Hack did.

    Who screamed out about forcing troops to attend a meaningless speeches without their body armor making a beautiful target for enemy mortars? (killing 7 and wounding 26, in that event. My cousin, when we last spoke, was surprised I had even heard of it!) Hack did.

    Who complained when soldiers (like my own cousin, in fact) were only allow two rounds of ammo for the shooting range? Hack did.

    The list goes on and on.

    There never was a man fought harder for our troops or who hated un-necessary war more.

    You see, he knew first hand what a sacrifice these kids are making, every day. He wanted to be sure they weren’t sent out needlessly and that they always had what they need. That seems simple enough, right?

    He died doing that.

    I’ll bet the whole pentagon was very relieved when this aging war horse finally succumbed to some crap his own country exposed him to in Vietnam (without telling him, of course. Agent “blue” I think they called it).

    They no longer had to worry about being called out on not doing their jobs.

    However,

    It was a fitting end for Hack, he just wouldn’t be Hack if he didn’t give everything, right until the bitter end.

    I met him once, back in the eighties, a very charming and great man.

    RIP,

    rod

  16. I’m writing this from Spangdahlem AB. Not all of us join out of patriotism. My government concerns me. It’s policies worry me. Our leaders are often selfish. Grammatically, a “War on Terror” is like a war on blue, or war on up. We’ll never be done with it, and I don’t like it.
    I have no more desire to be in danger than the next person.
    But…
    My daughter is 5. I don’t want her to get drafted in 13 years. I joined, so she doesn’t have to. (Yes, a female draft is possible. The first 2 to 4 years one is out of the military, one is “inactive reserve.” If the government begins a plain old draft, all the woman who have been honorably discharged and are sitting out their inactive reserve time will have to be called up first, just like the men. Welcome to equality.)

    My father was wounded rescuing men from a crashed helicopter in Vietnam. He didn’t do it to save the world from the Red Scourge. He did it because he cared about his friends, who were burning.

    In the end, thats we all do it: To save those we love. It’s not about following orders (which are often stupid) or obeying officers (ditto). It’s about taking care of the people you love.

  17. My younger daughter works at a Gamestop. Her boss is an Iraqi vet. He was wounded in the hip, and he probably is in constant pain. He’s had multiple operations, and has to travel to Boston to get treatment (NH lacks a vet hospital). That’s an hour and a half drive each way. Still, he’s a great boss. He mentors the kids that work there. He really gets to know them, and has been an inspiration to everyone that knows him.. .without being all “I’m a vet”. His war experiences have made him a compassionate person that wants to help people. The kids in the area go to the Gamestop not only to buy games and hang out. They go to talk to this guy. He’s like the big brother with great advice for all the gamer kids.

    So today he HAD to work. Big release day for the game “Call of Duty”. Kinda ironic.

    But my daughter went in today, even though she didn’t have to work, so she could tell him thank you for serving. A LOT of the kids did.

    He still has lots of sugeries and rehab and other scars we may never know about. His focus though isn’t on himself. It’s on others.

    He’s a hero.

  18. Personally I remember my grandfather who left his home in Birmingham, England, in the autumn of 1942 to land in North Africa as part of the Torch invasion. He then spent the next three years slogging across the top of Africa and then up Italy. He finally returned home in mid-1945. Two years after the birth of his daughter, my mother.

    But I also remember my paternal grandfather who worked 12-hour shifts 6 days a week in the goodyear factory making truck tyres for the duration of the war.

  19. I salute all our veterans for the sacrifices that they have made and continue to make.

    Some of the veterans that most impress me are the Tuskeegee Airmen. I have met a few of these brave and distinguished pilots and always gave them my appreciation and thanks for fighting the dual enemies, the Axis and racism. If you don’t know who they are, please take a moment to look their story up. Being a fighter pilot was hard enough – being a black fighter pilot in WW II was Hell.

    I don’t like it when war protestors go after the troops. They should go after the leadership that sent them. The troops are just doing the job that they swore to do when they joined and have NO say in what battle or country that they are sent to by our leaders.

    For the record, one of my Grandfathers died of German bayonet wounds after WWI. The other Grandfather was too old to go in WW II and was sent to work on aircraft engineering issues for Lockheed. He helped solve the problems with the inflight cockpit heating in the P-38 fighter. My Dad served in the Army, but was so young that he got to Germany just as WW II ended. He ended up as a quartermaster at Tempelhof Airdrome in Berlin and knew General Eisenhower personally. His younger brother was a sonarman on a destroyer in Vietnam, then re-enlisted as a UDT “frogman” (nowadays, they are called “SEALs.”) My sister did three tours in the Army as both an MP and as a tank mechanic. So there is a lot of military service in my family.

  20. I’ll admit it, I am selfish too. I suppose this is something to be grateful for, I live in a cuntry where I am free to be just as selfish as I please. In fact, it seems that being selfish and ignorant have become as amerikkkan as a border dispute or bankruptcy. Gee, thanks Veterans, because of your efforts we are free to be just as pious, hypocritical and uninformed as we like. I do not see where there has been a single worthwhile reason to take our ideals and guns into other nations since WW2. How is it that Hitler was bad enough to go to war over yet Fred Phelps is permitted to walk among us as a protected citizen? How much more beauty would we be priveledged to witness if the armed forces were put to the task of teaching the uneducated amerikkkan public to read? One can dream.

  21. @Dodge: Sounds like you are criticizing the governmental system, not the people serving in the military.

    If our military has been sent where it shouldn’t have gone, it is our leaders that are responsible. And who are the leaders supposed to be responsible to? “We, the People.”

  22. I admire and respect people who are drafted into service and who attempt to do their job well. From the person to made it home to the person who caught a bullet the very first time they stood up and everyone in between, there but for luck go any one of us and they deserve our gratitude. I do not feel the same about people who volunteer for the service. These people may claim altruistic motives, but since I don’t believe in altruism this is a tough sell. Most of the people I know who went into the military did it because they weren’t qualified for anything else, it paid for their education, they liked a regimented lifestyle, or their parents or law-enforcement arm-twisted them into it. These people do not deserve any more or less respect than people who choose to be firemen, bakers, computer scientists, or bicycle repairmen. We all make our choices and live with the consequences. I don’t expect a ticker tape parade to validate my life choices. When I do engage in activities that other people may consider altruistic I do them because they make me feel good. To expect others to notice and reward me is pride and vanity.

    As a side-note, I think the existence or non-existence of altruism would make an excellent Afternoon Inquisition.

  23. @davew: You make valid points but I can attest that there are people who volunteer out of (seemingly) altruistic motives. During my time in the Army I knew several people who joined for no other reason than that they found it honorable and right to serve their country. There is also that well-known story of the football player who turned down an NFL draft to enlist and go to Afghanistan.

    I’m not saying that the majority join out of noble intentions, or even whether they are being truly altruistic (a philosophical question I don’t even want to get into), but there are many soldiers who didn’t just join out of lack of options.

  24. I would like to take a moment to point out a different kind of service. I never use the word veteran in regards to this service. I find it an inaccurate comparison. However I served my country and another as a Peace Corps volunteer. Returned volunteers frequently observe that we do not get a day of remembrance. Maybe because we do not because we (generally) did not sign up for service with even a small chance of getting shot at or being in battle. Today is the day after Veterans/Armistice Day. While much less frequent, Peace Corps volunteers die while serving. Some, like me, come back with fantastic injuries and scars. We may not be veterans. But we served nonetheless.

  25. @Detroitus: You have a good point about my list of reasons people volunteering being incomplete. I should have done a better job of pointing out that these are only the people I had contact with. I’m sure, as you say, there are people who join up out of a sense of duty, honor, patriotism, or other virtuous reason. Whether these reasons are ultimately altruistic does unavoidably turn into a philosophical debate. (A debate I’m certain I can win. :-) However, there are plenty of people who did not volunteer for military service who nevertheless served our country honorably and for them I have unconditional respect.

  26. All the Allied men and women who had no choice but to do what they had to do in WW’s I and II. My Uncle, who had to operate a .50 machine gun in Korea (he was never the same afterward). Craig Jaekle, who didn’t come back from ‘Nam.

    My dad especially because he was 101st Airborne Division and was one of the “Bastards of Bastogne”. http://www.google.com/search?source=ig&hl=en&rlz=1G1GGLQ_ENUS299&=&q=bastogne&btnG=Google+Search&aq=fe_of_Bastogne. He still has nightmares (at 86) about his buddy peeking out of a two man foxhole, getting his brains blown out by a sniper, and he had to just wait there until some support could get him out. Forward observers have a high casualty rate. He has a Bronze Star, Silver Star, Medal of Honor, ended up as

    That’s why in 1983, with a degree in Information Systems from The State University of New York, I volunteered for Naval service. After Vietnam and all the disillusionment with Federal Government in the ’70’s (I missed the draft by four months – I turned 18 in 4/76) there was a real lack of skilled and able people.

    I went in as an enlisted man, not an officer. Just because you have a Bachelor’s Degree doesn’t mean you get a commission. It depends on what area you work in. Data Processing (I don’t know what they call it today – The Navy actually is a bit more progressive and I suspect they’ve made changes since 1989) personnel come up through the ranks for security reasons, and that’s absolutely reasonable. I didn’t mind. It worked out OK, but just how it all was is something for a different blog.

    Apology is made for not posting yesterday. A friend I work with was in was in Desert Storm. We went out, ate well, shared stories, got tanked, and damn near drowned in the Atlantic. He had an Accounting Degree before he went in.

    Yes, I’m sure that Pat Tillman enlisted because he couldn’t make any money. Right. He, like many, many people who sign up do so to back up the people – as in all you who read this and others. Unless you’ve been there and have known the people there, you just don’t know who is actually there and why. Yes, many are there to get an education or just plain get away from the place they’re from, but mostly they’re adventurous and have the courage to do it

    Salutes to Detroitus and Gabrielbrawley, and a handshake to Kimbo Jones.

    @ Gabrielbrawley Please don’t disparage your citations too much. When the Eisenhower’s battle group spent 75+ days off Lebanon in ’83 after the Marine compound was blown up, no bombs were dropped and no shots were fired. Nonetheless, a ribbon was issued for all services that were there in that theater under UN sanction, because there were there. I was aboard in ’85 when Terry Anderson and five others were kidnapped, and our battle group spend 73 days at sea. The UN, and Regan said “get out because we won’t help you”. All we got then was frustrated. That’s why we won the Battle “E” award, but at least Navy could have awarded an expeditionary citation. More’s the pity.

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