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Memorial Day Memories

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It didn't start out as "Memorial Day" but rather "Decoration Day," and is set aside to honor men and women who died while in military service.  Across the country observances include visits to cemeteries and memorials, flags flown at half mast, and of course, parades.  Miss Bob and I love parades!

The local papers reported that in 2008, our town of Waynesville, NC, would have a Memorial Day Parade for the first time in several years.  State Senator Joe Sam Queen along with local veterans groups had been instrumental in making it happen.  The parade would feature the U.S. Marine Band stationed nearby.  

Copyright 2008 Etier Photography

James Hyatt decided not to let another parade go by without him.

In addition to the band, floats carried veterans from several wars, and marching units featured re-enactment groups, ROTC organizations, as well as active-duty military units from several branches of the armed forces.  The end of the parade was approaching, so Hyatt gathered his portable oxygen tank and got to his feet. He stepped off the curb and began his march down Main Street behind the last unit.  Hyatt’s spontaneous participation was a fresh and unexpected surprise.  Everyone thought the parade was over.  The crowd lining the parade route experienced a contagious emotional reaction that began with smiles, waves, and cheers. For many observers, Hyatt personified their patriotism, loyalty, and resolve. A young boy joined him and waved a flag.  Many veterans and supporters stepped out into the street and shook his hand; many saluted. When he reached the end of the parade route, there was scarcely a dry eye on Main Street.

A few days after the parade, I had the opportunity to meet him and his wife in their home for a brief interview.  Hyatt served in the U.S. Army Signal Corp and landed in Normandy a week or so after the initial June 6 invasion.  His group was responsible for land based communications, particularly by telephone.   He was in Patton’s Third Army (as was my father)  and went with them all the way across Europe.  We had a lively conversation and he told me stories about the landing and how he had known a man who later became an assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Last week I had the chance to speak to Senator Queen about his long-time family friend. "Mr. Jim was a great man — a great mountain man.  He was a great square dancer and caller.  Our families go way back. He was a dear friend.  He was a loyal patriot and loved his country." 

Mr. Hyatt’s decision to join this parade was timely. He passed away on July 19, 2008 leaving us this timeless image of dignity, courage, and determination. I'm reminded of the last lines of narrated dialog from the movie, Patton.  As the conqueror returned home in a tumultuous parade, a slave standing in his triumphant chariot with him holds a golden crown and whispers a warning, "All glory is fleeting."

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About FCEtier

  • Memorial

    Hey May I ask you all that what else we can do to keep the memories of our loved one fresh in everybodies mind????

  • STM

    Alan: I think the word Doc cut out was “knob”, in reply to your kind and presumptive suggestion that my not wanting to go to Vietnam made me a wonderful poster-boy for courage.

    And how is “dickhead” presumed to be highly pejorative? (I didn’t call you one, either; I said you were behaving like one. Big difference.)

    But “complete dickhead”, I’d agree that’s pejorative.

    But plain common-or-garden “dickhead”. Nah.

    It’s almost a term of endearment. Almost …

  • Beautiful story Chip thanks for sharing. my hope is that we will come to a point in our lives that war is no longer needed but we should never forget the sacrifices these brave men & women have given to keep us free. I am grateful to each & every member of the armed services for their previous or current service to this country….we should never forget what they’ve done for us.



  • The one thing I hate more than a dickhead is a lying dickhead. First zingzing (#59) writes about me: “I know alan is coming off a bit dickish.” Picking up the cue, STM (#60) parrots zingzing: “I just think he’s behaving like a dickhead.” zingzing (#61) then confirms: “i’ll agree he’s behaving ‘like a dickhead.'”

    Next, however, zingzing (#68) dissembles: “oh, alan … no one’s calling you a dickhead.” And zingzing (#73) further prevaricates: “alan, you’ll note i never called you a dickhead.”

    Altogether, that’s the kind of vacillating doubletalk I’ve come to expect from you, zingzing. In my book, you’re even lower than STM. At least he doesn’t insult the reader’s intelligence by disclaiming responsibility for what he wrote.

  • zingzing

    alan, you’ll note i never called you a dickhead. i may have quoted stm, but i made sure to note that they were his words, not mine. however, your #69 and 71 are not helping your case for not being one. so petulant. very childish. i’m even in basic agreement with your idea (if not your delivery), but still you lash out. why?

  • That’s OK, Alan. I’m not taking any offense.

  • Spoken like a true dickhead, Roger. Welcome to the club.

  • zing, it’s just Alan’s writing style. When it’s satire, in which he excels, it flies off wonderfully, but it comes off somewhat less fortunately when it’s a biting criticism.

  • And in the spirit of free expression, let me return the compliment: STM and zingzing, I think you are dickheads too.

  • zingzing

    oh, alan… no one’s calling you a dickhead. but you are getting angry way too easily. have a sense of humor. and try to be a little less confrontational.

  • ATTENTION COMMENTS MODERATOR: You have inconsistently applied Blogcritics’ Official Comment Policy in this thread. “We will edit/delete … personal attacks of any kind,” the Policy reads. I assume that’s why you inserted “[personal attack deleted]” in STM’s comment #56 above. Yet you let stand two subsequent references–STM (#60) and zingzing (#61)–to me as a “dickhead.” If “dickhead” is not a personal attack at the most vulgar level, then I have no objection to any other filth STM might sling my way. Thus, you have my express written permission to restore his personal attack in comment #56. Please do so at your earliest convenience. Surely if the person attacked relieves you of liability, you can let us see STM’s uncensored words of wisdom. I fully expect they will tell us more about him than about me.

  • STM

    Yeah, not keen on the alternatives either.

  • zingzing

    sometimes, yes. sometimes, it’s fucked up. but i’ll take it over anything else out there.

  • STM

    Democracy’s a wonderful thing, then, ain’t it?

  • zingzing

    stupid comma splice

  • zingzing

    and all the armless, legless, o2-sucking, fucked up veterans in the world, won’t make me think the gov’t was right making them that way.

  • zingzing

    i’ll agree he’s behaving “like a dickhead.” (and the “kurtz” reference is great. makes me want to watch apocalypse now again.) but i think ms fc and you might be confusing his message with his delivery. i can understand his message, as, i think, can you. he’s dead on. it’s pretty sickening to watch old men put young men to death when they never really understand the political forces that they’re being killed by. and it’s nothing to celebrate. their sacrifice is honorable, but the bullshit they died for, no. NO. and yet we do it again.

  • STM

    Don’t agree zing … he’s on here asking people if they’ve been in combat – what business is that of his, did we ask him?? – and giving every bastard who doesn’t agree with him a gobful, obviously without reading the posts. OK to express an opinion, as long as it only jells with your own, right?? (noy yours, I don’t mean).

    You know as well as I do that I’m no warmonger and there are causes I don’t believe in; I do, however, believe in remembering those who had to go, particularly in my own family as three-quarters of them didn’t survive WWI let alone WWII, and existed only for decades as cameos above my grandma’s fireplace.

    And so yes, I do understand the futility of it all as well … and have seen it firsthand too.

    I just think he’s behaving like a dickhead. I understand his view, and partly agree with it, but it doesn’t excuse his complete lack of sensitivity.

    And FC’s story is still inspirational, no matter what Mr Kurtz thinks.

  • zingzing

    stm, i know alan is coming off a bit dickish… but his general point, on war being totally fucking stupid, is pretty dead on, and i think you’d agree with that (at least in your vietnam experience). (i’d have done the same thing. no way you’re going to make me kill a man or risk my life for something i don’t believe in.)

    all that said, whipping out the “assume” shit right after bringing up “heart of darkness” (or “apocalypse now”) is cringe-worthy.

  • STM

    You do know what ASSUME stands for don’t ya??

  • STM

    Colonel Kurtz

  • STM

    Alan: “STM (not going to Vietnam) That’s a mighty low profile in courage.”

    [personal attack deleted] It has nothing to do with courage, but that’s beside the point.

    But I HAVE been in a war zone; I was right in the middle of one as a child, if you care to read some of the the other comments, so I did know exactly what could happen.

    I also thought the Vietnam War was based on a pack of lies bought into by my government as well and some of us worked that out too late. So, no, I wouldn’t have gone even if they’d sent me.

    Tell us a bit about yourself, Alan?? What’s your story?

  • STM

    Alan: “Miss Bob Etier (#49), I’ll take your testy reply as confirmation that you have in fact never been in combat. If you had, you wouldn’t hesitate to admit it.”

    Not so Alan. Plenty don’t admit it. Not even close.

  • #52 – It would be foolish to take too many of the things I’ve read here literally.
    #53 – Are you requesting my CV? Or are you merely being retaliative? Your response only serves to reinforce my comments at #49. I rest my case.

  • Miss Bob Etier (#49), I’ll take your testy reply as confirmation that you have in fact never been in combat. If you had, you wouldn’t hesitate to admit it.

  • zingzing

    please tell me you’re not taking that literally.

  • zingzing, I don’t know if it’s ideas that need to be shot in the head…that’s kind of a bizarre concept.

  • zingzing

    ms. bob–if you look at his last paragraph, you’ll note that he does in fact have respect for the dead, but sees their deaths as nothing to honor. with very few exceptions, the war dead of the united states died needlessly. watching old white men throw around our lives like so much cannon fodder should make anyone angry. if we had a memorial day for war, that would be something to celebrate. war kills, cripples and mentality debilitates people. the idea that it’s an answer to anything needs to be shot in the head.

  • Alan Kurtz: You don’t know that I am “someone who has never been in combat.” Clearly, you feel free to make bold statements with no foundation in fact. What other statements have you made in this thread that follow suit? You not only have no respect for the dead; you have no respect for the truth.

  • CORRECTION: Live and learn. I see that Blogcritics software does not accept ASCI character #239, but simply drops it. So please make “nave” in sentence one above “naive.”

  • Miss Bob Etier (#36), your simplistic and nave point of view is exactly what I’d expect from someone who has never been in combat. You define courage as warriors fighting to the death in a battle for someone else’s “noble cause” because “they had enough love for their country that they accepted (no matter how grudgingly) what they perceived their duty.”

    That’s not my definition of courage, nor does it accurately describe why most men go to war. They do so because they are pressured by their government. In that circumstance, it would take more courage to refuse than to submit. Once in combat, they fight out of blind fear, primal rage and devotion to their buddies, not in service to a cause. They perceive their duty as simply to stay alive from one day to the next. And if that means butchering men, women and children who aren’t on God’s side like we are, then so be it.

    There’s nothing valiant about war. It’s a universally bestial exercise. But by staging parades on Memorial Day, we romanticize what is essentially a failure of human imagination. And we do so not out of respect for someone else’s sacrifice, but as a way to excuse ourselves from lacking the guts to fight on our own or oppose either a particular war or all wars categorically.

    In this regard, I am struck by STM’s comment #11. “I chose not to join the air force here as a young bloke,” he writes, “because I didn’t want to run the risk of being sent to Vietnam as that war as far as any of us knew could have gone on for another 10 years. A small risk maybe, but one I didn’t want to take.” That’s a mighty low profile in courage. Since when do we participate in a war only if it can be wrapped up by next Christmas? What’s revolting is that STM is now leading the cheers for the military.

    If we really want to pay tribute to our servicemen, living or dead, active duty or veterans, we’d turn Memorial Day into an occasion to educate ourselves about war, not weep at the spectacle of old men shuffling down Main Street before crowds of clueless Americans. The best Memorial Day would be the one where everyone realized there was no longer any need to maintain the charade of honoring men who were herded into killing our enemies of the moment, something the rest of us are too afraid, too selfish or too unprincipled to do ourselves.

  • STM

    Doug, it shouldn’t become less applicable in the future because the veterans have died. That should be more reason to remember them. But, yes, I agree … the reasons are more than worth thinking about, they are vital.

    That is why our experience is slightly different to America’s … the pointless slaughter of WWI (a million dead for us, and three million casualties) is still seared into our brains and our consciousness like a branding iron, which is why no one wanted to go to war again in 1939 but did anyway because they had no choice.

    That’s another reason to remember them.

  • STM

    Rog: “But except for World War II, I find it kind of disturbing that most of US wars have been fought on foreign soil”.

    You’re talking to someone from the remanants of the old British empire here … I know about that one.

  • I think Alan was being metaphorical, for effect.

  • doug m

    Those who want to honour the dead without considering the reasons why the sacrifices were made are likely to send more bodies off to slaughter unnecessarily.

    Don’t hate the day like Allen, but educate yourselves so the day becomes applicable to less people in the future.

  • No need, Stan. I haven’t shed as of yet the value of patriotism. But except for World War II, I find it kind of disturbing that most of US wars have been fought on foreign soil. In a manner of speaking, it is like being invaded, whatever the reason. I guess I don’t buy the domino theory so prevalent during the Cold War era, or the idea of “nation-building.” If anything, we should have international force policing the world and extinguishing potential fires. Of course, UN is not up to task; but neither is America, IMO, because our military actions are tainted by suspicion of national interest. There are trouble spots we readily get into to, and other trouble spots we avoid like hell fire. Why?

    Ultimately, I envisage the kind of situation portrayed in the Star Trek series. The Federation of Planets served only to maintain peace and order; but there was an express directive not to interfere in the ways alien civilizations or their autonomy. I believe we’re heading in that direction, but it’s going to take a while.

    BTW, I do recommend you listening to the Buckley-Mailer debate linked above. I’m certain you’ll enjoy it.

    And Happy Memorial Day.

  • STM

    No probz Rog. I apologise for firing up. You know me … it’s the Irish in me. I can’t help it.

  • The comment wasn’t directed at you, Stan. It was general in nature.

    Otherwise, I try to make it a point to direct it to an addressee.

  • STM

    OK, I accept that. But it didn’t come out that way, mate …

  • Hey, Stan, I served during that time, even volunteered for Vietnam duty – out of sense of adventure, not necessarily because I believed in that war – but since I wasn’t a citizen yet, my clearance was denied.

    But look, I haven’t said anything about not defending one’s country. And I wasn’t trying to be snide with the Audie Murphy comment, only to suggest that many have an idealized version of war or the underlying motivations (insofar as the participants are concerned).

  • STM

    Rog: “Some of you guys must have loved Audie Murphy movies”.

    Yeah, nice one Rog. Always ready with the snide, put down comment, eh?

    Here’s what happened to me and how my life changed in a small way because of war: As a kid, I lived in Baghdad and watched an attempted coup from our apartment window in which a couple MiG 17s were shot down a few hundred yards away. They’d passed so close to the window I could see the pilots’ faces.

    As a young bloke at school, I wanted desperately to join the air force and to learn to fly, and was offered the chance of a scholarship as a cadet. The Vietnam war was still on at the time; we thought it might go on forever and there was always a chance you might get posted there. When I thought about what I’d seen not even 10 years earlier, and the bizarre mixture of fear, fascination and adrenalin of watching it all unfold over a 24-hour period, with small-arms fire all through the day, the night, and half the next day, and the possibility that something like that might happen to me, I thought I’d stick to surfing instead. As it turned out, we had a change of government that pulled all the Aussie troops out before the US did, so I wouldn’t have gone anyway … but I’d made my choice. Some officers even came round to our place to try to talk my father into talking me into taking staying on and going for the flying scholarship.

    Some people in the Army here never got the choice … like in the US, their names were picked in a lottery and they got sent anyway and some never came back. I know some of them thought they were doing the right thing because a lot of the time, when you’re young, and no one tells you any different, that’s what you think if your government tells you you need to do something. I think some of them thought it would be exciting; they were right, but it wasn’t the kind of excitement they’d expected.

    The other fly in the ointment: the discovery of pot and the fact that at that time, it really wasn’t cool to have long hair.

    But someone else, two other generations, had earlier given me the opportunity to be able to say “no” … so yes, I do think people were fighting for something once.

    And the ones that were sent to Vietnam … they deserve to remembered as well, not shoved away in a corner and never spoken about as if they never existed because other members of their generation thought it would be a good idea to abuse them, spit on them and throw red paint or pigs’ blood at them when they came home.

    Surely we’ve all moved on from that and seen the truth of it all.

    Audie Murphy movies … please, don’t make me spew.

  • On Memorial Day is it necessary for those who don’t believe there are heroes (even conscripted, reluctant heroes) to dishonor the dead? #10, instead of loathing the day, why don’t you give a few seconds to mourn ALL who have given their lives for someone else’s “noble cause” regardless of the nation for which they fought. If you believe those who die in war die in vain, then perhaps you could respect them for their courage. After all, they fought to the death; they didn’t run away.

    So it is with our living veterans; they didn’t choose the war, most wouldn’t have chosen to fight. But they had enough love for their country that they accepted (no matter how grudgingly) what they perceived their duty.

    We all obey laws that we don’t necessarily support; does that mean the law-abiding deserve less respect than the law-breaking?

  • Mark

    true dat

  • STM

    It’s mostly been wrong place, wrong time, though, lately hasn’t it??

  • Mark

    (Surfer dude, I never pulled a Clavos. I was involved in the design and implementation of small unit combined arms training as a civilian contractor.)

  • zingzing
  • STM

    Mark: Yeah, I think know where you’re coming from, so this one’s for you then, and someone else special here on BC, who probably knows who he is . Hope you can understand ‘Strine, though.

    I do like the Pogues’ version of that other song by Baez, too, BTW, and the Dropkick Murphys do a good version of the other on by The Furies.

    Baez has changed the words slightly too. I still like it though … maybe because I like Baez.

  • to continue –

    The Firing Line.

    The link is to segment #1; you can navigate at will to link up to the remaining five segments.

    It’s as good an entertainment you’re liable to come across on this Memorial Day, I guarantee it. And it’s liable to shake your pet convictions, if you’re a daring type.

  • Yeah, a kind of Hollywood view of profiles in courage. Some of you guys must have loved Audie Murphy movies.

    BTW, Alan, let me take a page from Norman Mailer’s playbook.

    When confronted by William Buckley Jr. whether he was against all wars, Mailer replied that he didn’t want to be boxed into a ridiculous position, namely that all wars are bad. His reply – then there’s nothing left besides pacifism and vegetarianism.

    Still, he argued that most of US wars were fought mostly for image.

    Anyways, here is a link to that explosive, one-hour long interview on

  • Mark

    …and fyi, Stan and Ruvy, the war dead who I remember today didn’t die for your right to anything. They were simply kids in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • A Geek Girl

    As the first female veteran in a long family line of veterans I really appreciate this. It’s an important day for me personally. I remember…

  • Mark

    (Surfer dude, Baez is far too sweet for that one. My preferred version.)

  • STM

    G’day Jet. Good on you.

  • #10-I believe a definition for the term “insensitive Jackass” has just been achieved.

  • STM

    But as I’ve made clear elsewhere, Alan, this is what I really think about war and the futility of it all , and so is this as well

    But that doesn’t mean some reasons for it aren’t right.

    And it’s also why we shouldn’t forget.

  • STM

    And FC’s story is STILL inspirational.

  • STM

    Ruve: “And Alan, those who die to defend your right to say “I loathe Memorial Day” deserve to be remembered”

    Yep, that’s the nail Ruvy, and you’ve hit it right on the head.

  • I don’t think the point of Memorial Day is to reflect on the politics of why wars happened, but rather to celebrate those who sacrificed so much to take part in what they thought was the right thing to do. In my opinion, anyone who is detached enough from their own personal concerns to see the bigger picture and is courageous enough to take action by, for example, becoming a soldier, is a hero. And all the veterans that I know are for peace – that’s why they went to war.

    Thank you to all veterans and all the people currently serving. You are quite an example to us all.

  • STM

    Alan: “Really, STM (#11), I did not “rave on”

    Perhaps we really are one people separated by a common language. To “Rave on” doesn’t really mean that much here, and is not regarded in the pejorative … it just means to forcibly make a point mostly in a socially-acceptable manner.

    None of that alters my point of view, here, either. And Ruvy’s right about writing that in German or Japanese.

    I still believe, no matter uneccessary war is, that when people intend to kill you or subjugate you and intend to do terrible things to you, you’re better off fighting back than waving flowers if you have the means to do so.

    Militarist Japan, murderous Nazi Germany and fascist Italy (with most Italians led reluctantly, and the Nazis getting some help from stalinist Russia before they switched sides) started the war.

    Our parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts, what have you, finished it because they had something worth standing up for and despite preferring not to do so (I mean, who would want to have to do that … seriously???), no matter how unpalatable that notion might be to anybody.

    Sorry, Alan, like I say, I respect your view but it’s diametrically opposed to mine beyond not wanting to have my country or anyone else’s involved in any war unless there is no other choice, either literally or morally.

  • I’m lecturing you not on being a “patriotic American”, but on having a decent respect for those who saved your butt. In your case, they happen to be Americans. I note also, that had the Americans decided that war was just too messy and bloody, I would have died too, as my parents lived in America and would have been murdered off by a collaborationist rgime. But in the final analysis, those who guard my butt are Israelis. And I respect and salute those who fought for the independence of THIS nation, our ancient homeland where I live, and where my wife and I have planted roots.

    That I, a foreigner, should have to lecture you not on patriotism, but on a decent respect for those who have saved your butt, is shameful, and is partly indicative of why your country is going down history’s toilet.

  • Yeah, right, Ruvy. You of all people are lecturing me about being a patriotic American? You who turned your back on our country, fled with your family to the expatriate life in Israel, and write regularly in the harshest terms about how awful the United States is. What a hypocrite!

  • Ruvy

    And Alan, those who die to defend your right to say “I loathe Memorial Day” deserve to be remembered for their sacrifice for you. Even if you would rather forget them.

  • Really, STM (#11), I did not “rave on” about Dresden, Hiroshima or anything else. I merely stated my point of view in reasonable terms and without excess emotion. You ought to respond in kind instead of taking the low road by crudely mischaracterizing my post.

  • Ruvy

    No amount of parades, in small towns or large cities, can disguise the fact that we are celebrating unnecessary death.

    Well, Alan, you could have written this in German or Japanese, had Americans or Brits decided that war was just too messy and “unnecessary” for them to engage in. I wouldn’t be part of the conversation, though. As a card carrying member of der Gegenrasse, I would never have been born. My parents, also card carrying members of der Gegenrasse, would have been executed – either by a Nazi collaborationist regime in America, or by the Nazis themselves. In fact, now that I think of it, one of our comment moderators never would have been born either. Even though he is not a Jew (and would be insulted were he called one), he would have been deemed one under Nazi regulations concerning such things. At least one of his parents would have been killed by the Nazis or a collaborationist Nazi regime.

    Some deaths are necessary, Alan, to defend fundamental decency. Some wars are necessary to defend fundamental decency – even when your best buddy has his head blown apart by enemy fire, and it is something you would rather not talk about because it is too much of a nightmare to you.

  • You can rave on all you like Alan about Dresden, Hiroshima and the like … but the fact is, in 1939, both those men were young and enjoying their lives and the last thing they wanted to do was go to war.

  • STM

    And I don’t “admonish” anyone. I express an opinion that others may or may not like. Whether you like it or don’t is your bizzo.

  • STM

    I don’t think Ron felt survivor’s guilt. I think he was just glad to walk out of it alive after watching lots of his mates get killed in a war they didn’t start.

    Same goes for my father in law, who also doesn’t talk about his experiences but I’m sure he was pretty happy to get home and start a family, something he’d probably wanted to do before the Nazis started marching across Europe and crushing heads under jackboots and the Japanese thought it would be a good idea to start blowing the living sh.t out of everyone.

    You can rave on all you like Alan about Dresden, Hiroshima and the like … but the fact is, in 1939, both those men were young and enjoying their lives and the last thing they wanted to do was go to war.

    When she was a child, my mother’s street and the surrounding area was bombed to buggery in London by the Nazis, from 1940 on and with substantial loss of life because it was a hop, skip and a jump from the Vicker’s aircraft factory.

    She didn’t feel much guilt about their hateful ideology being wiped off the map, I can assure you.

    Truth is, as I said before, war should be a last resort. But had someone not stood up things might be a bit different; I’m glad I’m not speaking German, Japanese or Russian right now. Or six foot under because my skin’s not the right colour.

    Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

    I respect your opinion Alan and your moral stand, and I understand exactly where you’re coming from, but I don’t agree with it.

    I’m not entirely against that view, however; I chose not to join the air force here as a young bloke because I didn’t want to run the risk of being sent to Vietnam as that war as far as any of us knew could have gone on for another 10 years. A small risk maybe, but one I didn’t want to take.

    However, that kind od attitude of mine should not take away from those who did go and believed at the time they were doing the right thing. 20/20 hindsight is a marvellous thing, especially when you get older.

  • I loathe Memorial Day. STM (#5) admonishes us to remember “what all these fellas (and others later) from the free nations did so that we could remain free of hateful ideologies.” If only it were true! STM’s homeland may be free of hateful ideologies, but the United States is not, and never has been. Moreover, one side’s “hateful ideologies” are another side’s sacred principles. It all depends on who wins the war.

    During the High Middle Ages, Christians conducted some of history’s most ruthless bloodletting to rid the Holy Land of the “hateful ideologies” practiced by Muslims, pagans, Jews and other assorted enemies of the Pope. In their own eyes, Crusaders were god-blessed saviors of the one true faith; to their victims, these same Crusaders were goddamned lunatics slaughtering men, women and children with self-righteous abandon.

    Of course, in our own lifetimes, we have waged only Good Wars, such as World War II. Strangely, though, even that highpoint of Western civilization manifests moral ambivalence. For one thing, not all 25 million combatants killed during WW II espoused hate. Those on our side were selfless freedom fighters seeking to do good. Only those on the other side were vile, despicable, subhuman carriers of hateful ideologies. Likewise among the war’s 50 million noncombatant deaths: ours were innocent civilians; theirs were diehard collaborators, including children fried to a crisp in Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo, each clutching his or her little flag with swastika or rising sun emblem. Nevertheless, in the final reckoning, our dead were just as dead as theirs, and smelled no better. How could that be?

    This conundrum may partly account for why many victors have been reluctant to discuss their participation. STM (#5) tells us that tail-gunner Ron “never spoke about the war. It was like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.” FCEtier (#6) concurs, “My father was one of those who didn’t talk much about the war.”

    Various factors play into this. First, we forget that in response to the most popular call to arms in American history, many healthy young males of military age were reluctant to serve. Whereas 6 million men enlisted, 10 million more had to be conscripted. Maybe they sensed the Good War was not as good as recruiters claimed. And perhaps their postwar reticence derived in part from unwillingness to take credit for a victory that they had to be summoned to by official notice and under penalty of fines and imprisonment should they fail to show up.

    Moreover, whether they’d volunteered or been drafted, there must’ve been tremendous survivor’s guilt among those who returned alive. Survivor’s guilt is almost always unjustified, but tell that to the guys who saw their best buddy’s head blown apart by enemy fire.

    Ultimately, though, I suspect the reluctance of veterans to discuss their service–and this applies to all wars–owes to that fact that they, of all people, know how ugly, stupid and futile war is. No amount of parades, in small towns or large cities, can disguise the fact that we are celebrating unnecessary death.

    I loathe Memorial Day.

  • “Small-town America and small-town Australia are almost identical places, except you guys speak with strange accents and drive on the wrong side of the road.”

    Having been to Oz twice, STM, I have to say I couldn;t agree with you more (or less). Cheers!

  • STM

    Yeah, nice one Jesse; good spamming ruining a nice thread. What makes you think a bunch of Yanks is going to freecall a number in Australia to get heat-reflective roofing??

    They get snow up there, anyway, not blazing sunshine.

  • STM

    I’ll grab that and have a good look at it FC. Cheers. Thanks again for a great little story mate! I love reading that kind of stuff. Small-town America and small-town Australia are almost identical places, except you guys speak with strange accents and drive on the wrong side of the road.

  • I’m right there with you, STM.
    My father was one of those who didn’t talk much about the war. But, he shared stories with me via his favorite book about the war.
    “When All The World Was Young” by Ferrol Sams. It’s a great book and I recommend it highly.

  • STM

    Ron died last year. A remarkable man, but an ordinary bloke. I made a mistake in the comment FC … it should have read “he never spoke about the war”. It was like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

    We do know that the aircraft captain volunteered for a second tour of duty, and they all refused except one bloke (they didn’t have to go on a second tour, and remember, by 1945, many of those who survived had not been home to Australia – 13,000 miles away – since 1940 or so.

    That guy, remarkably, also survived. My father-in-law is also not travelling too well right now.

    I loved your story and the pic of the old army vet marching with his ozygen tank. Rather poingnant … I noticed there was a teary looking little girl (who could be just like my own daughter) watching him do for him what must have been an amazing walk. I suspect he went last so he didn’t slow the others down, and I hope all the kids and young people like that little girl keep remembering what all these fellas (and others later) from the free nations did for us so that we could remain free of hateful ideologies.

    I don’t care how hokey that sounds, either. I believe it to be absolutely, 100 per cent right.

  • Thank you all for your comments.

    STM, as of Sept. 2009, our WWII vets were dying at a rate of approx 850 a day and their median age was 86.

  • STM

    We have only one of a number of WWII veterans left alive in our family; the two oldest made it well into their eighties.

    One, Ron, was a tail gunner in an Australian heavy bomber squadron attached to the RAF in Britain, who made the full 30 or so trips over Germany and occupied Europe when the lifespan of a new British bomber crewman – and the same I think for the American fliers who joined the round-the-clock bombing effort – was just a couple of missions. I believe the official figure for the British crews (astounding, really) was that most could expect to be dead before a 15th mission, even the experienced ones. I had a look a few years ago at the crews stats for the Royal Australian Air Force squadrons based in England during the war and it’s heartbreaking – whole crews of 18- and 19-year-olds dying violent, awful deaths on their first mission. It looks cold on the sheet: “KIA, first sortie”. Others with, say, just two making it out alive from a bomber crew of eight probably going down in flames.

    Ron spoke about the war but sometimes went to the Anzac Day parades, which are the equivalent of America’s Memorial Day, or veterans’ day, parades.

    The other, Des, is still alive and is my father in law. He is now in a nursing home and served on a Royal Australian Navy corvette as part of the US Pacific Fleet (Americans are still regarded fondly in Australia, for obvious reasons) and who saw action at numerous places. While most Aussie ships were stationed overseas and served with Britain’s Royal Naval, after the US entry to the war, those not recalled and more built later became part of the US fleet.

    I hope none of us ever forget this generation of men. In Australia, they are not regarded the way they are in the US as “the greatest generation” (that honour seems to go the World War One vets, in which the British empire suffered a million dead and three million casualties all up), but they are still held in reverence for their sacrifice.

    As an aside, American sacrifice in WWII is still honoured here too, at various locations and I have marched in an Anzac Day Parade in Sydney at which US service personnel also marched.

    And a Royal Australian Navy memorial in Melbourne honours the crews of the two cruisers HMAS Perth and USS Houston, most of whom went down with their ships while battling together (with a couple of British destroyers) an entire Japanese battle fleet in the Sunda Strait.

    The great sadness, and it must be the same in the US, is that many of the WWII veterans are now passing away, and the last of the WWI vets died here a few months back … a boy who joined up late in that war and lied about his age to get in.

    Interestingly, the young people of this country are recognising Anzac Day day for what it is: not about flag-waving but a memorial to the sacrifice of men who died so other generations could be free, and live in a free country. And they are now joining in, perhaps marching with their granfathers – or in place of them.

    This all goes for the Vietnam vets too. However unpopular that war, people went to it believing they were doing the right thing by their country.

    I know it sounds hokey, but the sacrifice of young people in the destruction of hate-filled ideologies isn’t something we should ever forget.

    I hope that memory extends to such things as 9/11, when on my TV down here in Oz, a continent and an ocean away, I watched live as NYC firefighters willingly went into burning skyscrapers to rescue trapped people … quite possibly aware that they were going to their own deaths too, but doing it anyway.

    Don’t let the conspiracy nuts make that any less of a sacrifice than that of those who never went home from other wars or the old men marching on Memorial Day and remembering their mates and exactly what it was they were all risking their lives for.

    Some things just should never be forgotten, and some causes are worth fighting for – even if wars should only ever be a last resort.

  • Doug Taylor

    As a native North Carolinina, (the story here took place in Waynesville), this is very inspiring to me. My Dad is a WW II veteran Navy divebomber gunner who was recognized in a town parade several years ago on Memorial Day of which he is still proud of to this day!
    Thanks for such a great story!

  • This is an inspirational story. Thanks for sharing it.