Veterans Day is a Time for Love for One's Countrytags: Veterans Day
Vaughn Davis Bornet, Ph.D. (Stanford, 1951), Commander, U.S. Naval Reserve, ret., of Ashland, Oregon, in World War II from September 1941 to January 1946, is author of “The Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson” (Kansas Press, 1983-84) and coauthor of a book on President Hoover. His books are on social welfare, and labor. Recently issued are “Speaking Up for America” (iUniverse, 2011), “patriotic from cover to cover,” he says, and “Leaders and Issues at Southern Oregon College,1963 to 1980,” on SOU’s website. He celebrated his 94th birthday on October 10 and anticipates a 67th wedding anniversary on December 28.
What can be said on Veterans Day 2011 that has not been said repeatedly over our years of remembering war and that final peace? Above all, we will recognize that the death of a loved one in war’s conflict, perhaps a continent away, is central and remains a catastrophe.
The headlines that announce every war’s end are dramatically similar in some respects. Always, there is joy. Then comes triumphalism, as everyone joins together to sum up what seems to have been accomplished through years of wartime.
Routinely on this day there is likely to be focus on the numbers of dead and wounded. The shock of this focus means there is likely to be justification for the extent of sacrifice in each war in its turn.
Is our situation with regard to Veterans Day any different this year? Can we offer anything new? These days do not seem to be a time for drama, that’s for sure. The long drawn out Iraq War has been added to by the dreary months and years of the Afghanistan adventure. There is an entirely natural tendency to mutter “same old, same old” and turn away.
Death from anonymous bombing somehow does not measure up to yesterday’s hand to hand fighting. But at the very least our casualties do not come from poison gas. And progress has been made in medical rehabilitation.
Some aspects of our situation bring hope. The ruthless adventurism of Iraq’s dictator is over. And that terrorist numero uno is no more. Libya’s megalomaniac lies in a lonely grave. Leading evildoers have gotten what they deserved, so that the threat of effective leadership of our enemies has been dealt severe blows.
There also is promise of immediate return of troops from Baghdad. Will still other promises and evaluations result in winding down of the Afghan conflict (with or without anything resembling victory)?
Those of us who survived long months and years in one or more of these wars, with or without combat, know that in an overall sense they have been waged for the safety of Americans at home. That 9/11 episode in one catastrophic instant made the need for action against terrorists all too clear. Will a renewed civil conflict emerge to undo the degree of success we have achieved to date?
We reflect, maybe prematurely, on what has been gained in these distant wars, and we feel pleasure at the absence of American casualties in the Libyan effort. The disabled in our military hospitals at home and abroad will for the moment remain those created in other belligerencies. Goodness knows that’s more than enough.
There will be a new outdoor memorial in Florence, South Carolina to add to those in Washington, D. C., state capitols, and overseas cemeteries. Alex Palkovich, a noted sculptor, will be unveiling a statue of a veteran in reunion with his joyful wife. The heart-warming reproduction will be familiar to all who have served far from home during any of our wars.
So another Veterans Day will have been noted and will be gone from us. Those who remember and relive tragedy personally or vicariouslywill have taken note. Tears will dry. Those of us privileged to rejoice at what our wars seem to have accomplished will have more or less relived some part of the Past. Such citizens will possibly have minimized mayhem and emphasize the end of Hitler and his ilk. And all rejoice in the rise of democratic states in war’s aftermath.
Thoughtful persons may have used November 11 to reflect on the mixed bag of ideas that result from war. Schoolchildren will be taught, possibly, that the word “glorious” goes with the word “sacrifice” and that war brings a blend of heroism and mayhem—to warriors and civilians alike.
Our veterans will have had their day, once again. Thinking of the planet wide casualties of World Wars I and II it seems too much to unreservedly claim that the balance sheet of war allows the generalization that our wars generally bring benefits in excess of those costs in amputation and in blood that flowed.
Considering the worldwide distribution of our troops these days in Asia, Europe, South and Central America, and now Africa, it remains clear that Veterans Day will long continue as a major occasion for our public’s thought, appreciation, concern, yes, and love—strange as that may seem.
One derivative of that affection seems to be intact at this time. It is love of country—that patriotism we have nurtured and displayed since the beginning of the United States of America. May one hope that every time we contemplate opportunities to wage costly and emotion-draining war we will exercise full caution, weigh alternatives and options, and utilize patience, at the same time guaranteeing that our military continues to “be prepared.”
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