Memorial Day 2003: Through a Vietnam Lens





Mr. Appy is the author of Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides (Viking).

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A few weeks ago I picked up the morning paper and, for the first time in months, there was no front-page story on Iraq. My response? I went right to the sports section. I knew I was indulging a delusion. Real peace had not arrived. Events in Iraq were as chaotic and distressing as ever. Even the killing hadn't stopped. American troops were firing on crowds of demonstrators; armed looters were still rampaging; children accidentally detonating unexploded ordnance; shoot-outs over gas evidently commonplace. But our Top Gun president had landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln, victory was all but declared, and troops were headed home. The war was over, it seemed, so what was going on with the Celtics?

How easy it can be to avert our eyes from suffering."How everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster," W.H. Auden observed in his great poem ("Musee des Beaux Arts") about Brueghel's"Icarus.""Something amazing" had happened,"a boy falling out of the sky," yet even those who must have"heard the splash, the forsaken cry. . .had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on."

We've turned away most obviously from the casualties. Of course, even during the race to Baghdad the major networks gave little attention to Iraqi suffering, but they did at least keep a running tally of American casualties, offering profiles of just about every one of the initial fatalities. When the number of American dead reached 100 and U.S. troops helped topple the now famous statue of Saddam Hussein on April 9, the media stopped counting and looked elsewhere. The most recent numbers I can find come from mid-May. A reasonable guess is that by now perhaps 170 American military personnel have died in Iraq. This means that"postwar" fatalities, from every possible cause, may already exceed combat deaths during the war.

As for the Iraqi military dead, it's impossible to find an estimate. Even antiwar critics have concentrated mainly on civilian casualties. We know the total is in the"thousands," but whether five, ten, or twenty thousand may never be determined. Somewhat more attention has been given to counting those war-related civilian deaths. Several sources, including a carefully reported count in the Los Angeles Times, put the figure in Baghdad at around 1700 and rising. For the nation as a whole, 4000 would probably be a conservative estimate.

American officials refuse to calculate civilian deaths or to initiate an investigation of which ones were directly caused by the United States. But they have offered a number of odd denials of responsibility. One of the most striking, if least noticed, came on April 25, when General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed that the 1500 cluster bombs dropped by American forces had resulted in just a single Iraqi civilian casualty. Estimates coming out of Iraqi hospitals, however, put the number of civilian deaths due to cluster bombs at several hundred and growing. Among the most indiscriminate of weapons, cluster bombs spray hundreds of small bomblets in every direction. Five to ten percent routinely fail to explode, but can later detonate when touched or moved by unsuspecting people, often children, who don't recognize them for what they are. These casualties continue to mount.

Of course, adding up the dead and wounded is but the narrowest way of measuring the costs of war. Haidar Tari, of the Iraqi Red Crescent, has been tracing Iraqis killed in the war who were buried without documentation. With a single example she focuses our attention on the legacy such a war leaves its survivors."On one stretch of highway alone," she told a Los Angeles Times reporter,"there were more than fifty civilian cars, each with four or five people incinerated inside, that sat in the sun for 10 or 15 days before [the victims] were buried nearby by volunteers. That is what there will be for their relatives to come and find. War is bad, but its remnants are worse."

Even the shortest wars produce wounds of every imaginable sort that extend years, even decades beyond the cessation of combat -- wounds to the body, to the emotions, to the land, to witnesses and relatives, to every human relationship, to historical memory, to the generations that follow.

My work has made me acutely aware of war's long afterlife. For the past five years I've been crisscrossing the United States and Vietnam talking with people from all sides of a war that killed some 58,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese. I interviewed men and women, civilians and combatants, relatives and eye-witnesses, hawks and doves, increasingly conscious that the lives of an almost unlimited variety of people had been swept up and transformed by a history far bigger and more complex than any single person could fully grasp.

Whether talking with former grunts in small Appalachian towns, veterans of the North Vietnamese Army in dilapidated convalescent homes near Hanoi, or journalists in fancy hotel lobbies, what struck me was how visceral the memories still were, how close to the surface the emotions of war remain. It was often hard to believe that the accounts I was listening to were drawn from a many -decades-old war. Strangely enough, I found some of the most painful stories inspiring. The sheer struggle to make meaning of history's hardest moments -- the moments that don't go away when we turn to the sports pages -- is one of the greatest gifts anyone can offer the future. In the presence of those struggles I felt hope. Out of the wreckage emerged a few remnants of war with enduring value.

With Memorial Day upon us, and in the wake of our most recent war, one that will not end soon for many Iraqis and some Americans, it's worth turning back to the suffering caused by another war, now long distant but still painfully present, to help us recognize the kinds of realities we are too easily tempted to ignore. Here, then, are three of the 135 voices from Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides.

****

"That sand was probably the only thing that saved me"
George Watkins

He was a grunt with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. In April, 1968, near Camp Evans, in Quang Tri province, he stepped on a land mine. He lost both legs and both eyes. His legs were amputated just a few inches below his pelvis. He lives with his sister in the Appalachian town of Big Stone Gap, Virginia."She cooks and cleans the house, but I take care of all my personal needs--getting on and off the couch, into bed, going to the bathroom."

Sitting sideways at one end of the couch, he carefully lights a cigarette. His empty wheelchair is next to him, an ashtray attached to one of its arms. He taps an ash into the familiar spot and asks about my minidisc recorder, wants to know how it compares to the cassette player he uses for books-on-tape. Looking into his bright blue artificial eyes, I have to remind myself that he cannot see the machine; that I need to slide it over to his hand.

My daddy built this house. He built it from the ground up, a piece at a time. We moved down here when I was three-years-old. He wanted to get all us kids out of the coal camps. He was a coal miner for thirty-six years and he did not want us in the mines, period. That's one thing Daddy would not let. He told the man who run his division of Westmoreland Coal that if he hired any one of his sons, that'd be the day he'd walk out of the mines. I have a brother in the railroad, and one that makes mining equipment, and one that just retired from the highway department. So we all stayed out of the mines.

I was drafted on June 19, 1967. I knowed it was coming. Just a matter of time. Come close to not getting drafted. Had high blood--borderline. They kept me three days at Roanoke to watch my blood pressure. I think the three days just laying around doing nothing brought it down.

I knowed very little about Vietnam. I mean what I know now about it and what I knowed then is just from scary. I didn't really pay a whole lot of mind to it. I just knowed that we was fighting over there against Communism, so-called. I started doing more thinking about it after I got drafted, in basic training, trying to find out more, but in there it was hard to find out anything.

I went to Fort Bragg and then to Fort Leonard Wood. Spent two months training as a combat engineer. That's what my MOS [military occupational specialty] was. I was told when I left I would be with an Engineer Battalion at Pleiku--that's where I thought I was going. But when I got to Vietnam, I reckon they needed infantry and I reckon they just drawed the line somewhere on the list and I went to infantry and the rest of them went over to what they's supposed to. In Cam Ranh Bay they said I was going to Chu Lai to the 196th and I hadn't had one bit of infantry training. The first night I was out there, they put me behind an M-60 machine gun and I had about a two minute lesson."Here's the safety, here's the trigger, and here's the bolt."

Our worse time was about the entire month of December, 1967. We stayed in the field. Everything we had, we had on our back. Where we stopped, that's where we slept. It was just a continuous patrol and ambush at night. Search-and-destroy in the day, and every third night you was on an ambush. You was lucky to get four hours sleep. It was nothing to go thirty to forty hours with no sleep. As a matter of fact, the longest we ever went was seventy-one hours. We lost quite a few people that time. Seemed like everywhere we moved, they was right behind us. Seemed like we couldn't get away from them. We went from ninety-three men down to forty. They brought one Chinook in and took us all out. One Chinook. As they say in the army, we was no longer an effective fighting force.

Then we was in one valley, called the Que Son Valley, two miles wide and ten, twelve miles long. We cleaned out every living thing in that valley--people and animals--and destroyed everything else. We just rounded them all up--four to five hundred people--and started moving them eleven klicks to some type of a camp. All their animals was killed. Then we made the valley a free-fire zone. After we cleaned it out, anything you saw was a legitimate target. Two days later, half the people were right back in it. They went back to nothing because we burned and destroyed everything.

They had to be some good people to withstand all that. They come right back to nothing and start over. Go out and get some thatch or find some that wasn't burnt, tie it together with a couple branches over some poles and sit up under it with their little beat up aluminum pots. They's some of the most determined people I've ever run into. I don't hate them. They did what they had to do. It's the politicians that put everybody in that place. Although I would like to get ahold of that one that set the booby trap. [Laughs.]

They moved us up to Camp Evans right after the big push into Hue during the Tet Offensive. That's where I got hit. We was doing a road sweep. We had about a five mile stretch of road and we had to sweep it every day for mines. All that area is flat and sandy--real sandy country. There just about wasn't any cover. Just dirty white sand. Over the years it had blackened like soot. I've still got some of it in me. The doctors say that sand was probably the only thing that saved me. Instead of coming straight up, it spread the explosion out real big.

It was real early, just after day break on a Sunday morning. We moved out in two platoons to that road we were supposed to sweep. My platoon was last and I was second or third from the very last man. We had just moved about a hundred feet when I hit it. Seems like I remember looking at my watch and seeing seven-thirty. Sometimes I think that's why I was looking down--why it got in my eyes. I was unconscious for just a couple minutes. I come around and I was laying in a hot hole with my arms up on the side. There was absolutely no pain, just numbness--total numbness. It was hot from the blast. That's the only thing I remember. I told them to get me out of that hole because it was hot. I got some burns on my back from that.

They tell me I hit a pressure-detonated mine--one of our duds, a 105-millimeter round that had been booby-trapped. Its about twenty inches long and 105 millimeters in diameter. Roughly forty people walked by it before I hit it. It also hit a boy in front of me and one to my immediate right. That boy lost a left eye, his left ear, and I think some movement. And I had just mentioned to him to move because he was way too close, just about shoulder to shoulder. I met him later at the hospital in San Antonio and he thanked me. He thinks it would have got him worse if he hadn't moved. And the boy in front, the radio saved his life. He was carrying the radio on his back. Our platoon leader wrote me a letter while I was in the hospital saying they found a piece of shrapnel the size of your hand embedded in the radio.

Doc patched me up and the helicopter sent me to an aid station at Camp Evans. A doctor did something and I was right back on the helicopter and they took me out to the S.S. Sanctuary hospital ship. That's when the pain really started hitting me and then it was just unbearable. They pushed me over to the side and was taking people over me. I think it was a triage decision, probably taking the ones that was worse. I can remember laying on that stretcher and it seemed like a long time, but they say in circumstances like that sometimes you don't lose a lot of blood. A lot of times the force of the explosion will seal the ends of the arteries and veins.

I knowed something was wrong with my eyes, but I was telling myself that my sight wasn't gone, that it was just sand or powder burn. When I come to after surgery my whole head and face was wrapped in bandages and I just kept telling myself I could still see. Nobody did tell me, but the more the days went, I finally began to tell myself,"No, you're going to be blind." A few days later a doctor says my eyes were just like you took and scrambled an egg. Like you took an egg and you just scrambled it. He said that was the shape my eyes was in.

I'll tell you what's surprising. I didn't think about my legs. Legs was a second thought. For some reason my sight meant a lot more than my legs. That's all I can say. All my thoughts and worry was on my eyes.

I still had my right leg for seven days. The doctors told me there's four inches of bone missing, but there was a little bit of tissue still holding it together. They tried to save it, but after seven days gangrene set in and my temperature got up to a hundred and six. I was plum out of it. The next thing I remember is running my hand down to my leg and feeling with my fingers. I just said,"It's gone."

I don't have much bitterness. Well, I don't think I do. I just wish that none of it ever happened--for everybody's sake. It was a bad political mistake. Have you been to the Wall? I was there in ‘85. I guess that made me feel the worst that I had felt since I'd been home. I sat right in the middle of it, right at the"V" of it, and run my hands up a ways on it. All those names. And then we went from end to end and picked out some that got killed in our outfit. I felt them. Spelled them out even. Each letter. I sat right there and just tried to think, 'Why did all these people die?' The majority were my age. Their lives and their families all messed up. What was gained from it?

At the end of the interview, he worries about how the published version will turn out."I say things that don't look good in print." He cannot be convinced otherwise. On my way out, he makes a request I do not know how to honor:"Fancy it up," he says.

****

"They carried me the whole way back to the North"
Ta Quang Thinh

A broad-shouldered man with silver hair wearing a white pullover jersey, he sits with three companions in the courtyard of a convalescent home for war invalids about twenty kilometers outside Hanoi. The veterans have parked in a cluster to chat. Their wheelchairs, which look like straight-backed lounge chairs atop three wheels, allow the men to rest their paralyzed legs straight out in front of them. Thinh went south with the North Vietnamese Army in 1965 as a nurse, a four-month journey by foot along the mountainous Ho Chi Minh Trial. In the NVA's jungle hospitals northwest of Saigon, he received the additional training necessary to become a doctor's aide and perform minor surgery."Most of the wounds I treated were caused by artillery shells. Bombing also caused many shrapnel wounds and concussions." He was himself wounded in Tay Ninh Province in 1967."I spent a lot of time in that violent place."

I was asleep in the jungle hospital when a male nurse woke me to tell me that Hue's blood pressure had gone down. Hue was one of our patients recovering from serious wounds in a post-operative care unit, a makeshift underground room with an A-frame roof made of logs and covered with a tarpaulin. So I got out of my hammock to go see him. I remember putting the stethoscope in my ears to listen to his pulse. I glanced at my watch and it was almost eleven o'clock. That's all I can remember.

Later my friends told me that we were hit by a bomb from a B-52. There were six of us in that room--myself, two male nurses, and three patients. I was crouched over Hue when the roof collapsed. It broke my spine and paralyzed me from the middle of my back down. They dug me out of the rubble the following morning. I was the only survivor. Somehow there was enough air to breathe and I was closer to the surface than the others, easier to dig out.

I stayed in the South another four years, treated that whole time in a jungle hospital, just wishing the war would end quickly. I couldn't communicate with my family for six years. Even if they had carried letters South, how would they have found us? We moved all the time.

In 1971, they were finally able to take me home. I was flat on my back in a hammock, two people at a time carrying me. They carried me the whole way back to the North. A third porter went along to relieve the other two. There were many stations along the way and I was relayed from one group of porters to another. It took us seven months. Of course it was very painful to be carried like that. I took painkillers but they didn't help much.

When I got home, I think everybody, including myself, was sick of the war. We abhorred it. It was not only cruel, it was absurd. Foreigners came to our country from out of the blue and forced us to take up arms. Don't you think that's absurd? We just wanted to be prosperous and live like other people. Of course we had to fight to protect our country but we were really sick of the war. Deep down we didn't like it. Casualties were enormous. And not just that--our savings, our houses, our plants and animals, everything was wasted by that war. I have many memories but I don't want to remember them. It sounds like a paradox to say that, but it's because I don't like war. I don't think anyone liked the war.

"I got married before going South. After I had been hospitalized in Hanoi for a few months, my wife came to see me." He is reluctant to say more, just that"she was very sad when she saw me" and that she visits him once a year.

****

Memorial Day 1968
Clark Dougan

In the 1980s, he co-authored seven books for The Vietnam Experience, a twenty-volume series published by Time-Life Books. Now an editor for a university press, we meet at a conference of the Organization of American Historians. He relishes conversation on any number of topics, so we talk late into the night, but this was the story he wanted most to tell.

I went to Valley Forge High School in Parma Heights, Ohio--a big, working-class, white, ethnic neighborhood just outside Cleveland. We were the Valley Forge"Patriots." Something like thirty-five kids from Parma died in the war. The principal would come on the intercom periodically and say,"We've just received the very sad news that Terry Kilbane, a marine lance corporal, has been killed in Vietnam. Let's please observe a moment of silence."

I think we sensed that we were all pawns of forces much larger than we were, and over which we had no control. It all seemed somehow like a roll of the dice. Some would go, some wouldn't, and it depended on accident, on how well we did in school, on what our parents' expectations were for us, lots of factors--but none of us were really that different from one another.

There was this one guy who sat next to me in homeroom named Greg Fischer. I played basketball, he played hockey. We didn't know each other very well, but because my last name began with D and his with F, we were in the same homeroom for three years. Toward the end of our senior year I remember talking with him about our plans for the future.

I said,"Well, actually I'm going to college next year. I just went down to visit this place called Kenyon and it seemed kind of cool. What are you going to do?"

He said,"Ah, I don't think I'm going to go to college. I'm thinking about going into the marines."

"The marines? Really?"

"Yeah, I mean, I'm going to get drafted anyhow, so if I'm going to get drafted, why not the best, you know?"

When we heard those obituaries over the school intercom it was a reminder that the war was there, and it was real. But one of the ways we coped with it was through a sort of black humor. It was almost as if the humor was an effort to make it go away, to make it unreal. For example, a few months after my talk with Greg Fischer, all eight hundred and thirty-five of us marched into Cleveland Public Auditorium for commencement--the Class of 1967. Suddenly some kid starts whistling the theme song to The Bridge On the River Kwai--the movie about British prisoners of war. And we all joined in! Believe me, it's not easy to whistle when you're laughing. This was followed by a very low, teenage, guttural version of"The Caissons Go Rolling Along." I'm not kidding. Meanwhile, in the background, the high school band is wailing away on"Pomp and Circumstance." You can just imagine all these guys in bright blue caps and gowns with the gold tassels, laughing away. It was fantastic.

So I go off to my first year in college and I'm really kind of oblivious of the war. The Tet Offensive is raging across South Vietnam and I'm trying to figure out what the hell Paradise Lost is all about. But I came home from college in late May.

On Memorial Day 1968, I opened up the Cleveland Press and there was this really angry editorial on the front page with the title"He Was Only 19--Did You Know Him?" It turns out to be about Greg Fischer and how he died at Dong Ha up near the DMZ. It just hit me like a hammer. I remembered that conversation in homeroom and it suddenly had this profound significance. I had gone off to this cloistered college while he was going off to die in Vietnam.

Unlike some, I've never had any guilt for not going to Vietnam. But I understand how easily it could have been me. Like any kid who had grown up in the fifties there was a certain allure to the military. And especially the marines. But my parents hadn't been able to go to college and they were determined that I would.

The Cleveland Press article concluded by quoting a letter Greg had left in the drawer of his desk. On the envelope he had written,"Open this if I don't come back from Vietnam." The letter was about what to do with the ten thousand bucks his family would get from his military life insurance--the standard death benefit for an American KIA. Primarily he wanted the money to go to his sister so she could go to college. The letter ended with a P.S.,"Don't forget to give Joey my hockey skates."

The editorial was really asking, how many more people like Greg are we willing to waste? This is just an ordinary kid we're talking about. He wasn't an Eagle Scout, or a class president, or an all-American athlete. He was a kid who had worked in the local pharmacy. We all know the high school kid who works in the pharmacy, even if we don't know his name.

I think that was the moment when"Middle America" really turned against the war. The Cleveland Press was part of the Scripps-Howard chain, a conservative syndicate that had strongly supported the war. So it was remarkable that this newspaper would run such an angry editorial about an American casualty. It reflected a feeling that was spreading all over working-class communities like Parma. I think a lot of World War II vets who had been sitting around their kitchen tables saying,"You've got to fight for your country," were starting to say,"Fuck this. It's not worth Greg Fischer's life or his buddy's life." Or maybe they weren't saying it, but they were starting to feel it.

In 1982, I went to Greg Fischer's grave. What struck me more than anything else was the simplicity of Greg's marker. There's just one small plaque on the ground surrounded by hundreds of marble headstones. It has his name, the dates of his life, and one word:"Vietnam." That's the only epitaph.

I felt good about having gone. And stood there. And remembered. The only tribute you could really pay, and I can still pay, is to remember. What else is there?


Copyright C 2003 Christian G. Appy, used by permission of Viking Penguin


This article first appeared on www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, a long time editor in publishing, the author of The End of Victory Culture, and a fellow of the Nation Institute.



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More Comments:


Jerry West - 6/10/2003

-
Last known Allies to die in combat in WWI were:

Pvt. Henry Gunther, Baltimore, MD, killed at 11:01
Pvt. G.E. Ellison, 5th Royal Irish Lancers, killed at 11:00
Pvt. G.I. Prince, Canada, killed at 10:58


NYGuy - 6/9/2003

Jerry,

In some ways Rememberance Day might be compared to our Memorial Day in the sense that the first World War destroyed a whole generation of Englishmen. In both wars there was the use of heavy artillery which took a great toll on the troops. In WW1, the trench warfare was almost stationary and the fighting in France became know as the "meatgrinder". Because of England's great losses, November 11th became know as Rememberance.

Since the US played a major part in bringing the war to an end, we also remember at 11:00 AM, on the 11th day, of the 11th month by a minute of silence. In my experience I find many, maybe even most don't know the meaning of this day.

This moment at 11:00 am is very specific to this day as it represented the hour when the Armistice went into effect. My dad was in the front lines on the Western Front and always lamented the time it took to get word of the Armistice. They were still fighting on that morning and men on both sides were killed before 11:00 AM.

When I, and I believe others, bow our heads in a moment of silence there is only a rememberance of those who paid the ultimate price. In that moment of silence there is only rememberance and honor, just as on Memorial Day. And because of the silence there is no political agenda presented.

As mentioned above the English experienced great losses and since it is a smaller country then the U.S. and it has a smaller population there is a more personnel relationship between the people and the veterans. The veterans are well remembered and it is likely that each Englishman knew someone, often family, that was touched by that war.

Our losses vs. our size was much less as a percentage of our total population and although we still have the minute of silence at 11:00 AM, many people don't really understand the meaning of that day.

It is my opinion that the English feel very much like the Amerians during the Civil War and all they want to do is remember and honor their soldiers.

I don't believe they engage in the type of politicization of the war that Mr. Apper is trying to do. His comments would be more appropriate on many other days and not on either of these days.

As I say this is only my opinion of how I view these days that "remember and honor" brave men who gave their lives. Others are welcome to look at these days in other ways and if I disagree I will give my opinion of why I disagree.




NYGuy - 6/9/2003

Jerry,

In some ways Rememberance Day might be compared to our Memorial Day in the sense that the first World War destroyed a whole generation of Englishmen. In both wars there was the use of heavy artillery which took a great toll on the troops. In WW1, the trench warfare was almost stationary and the fighting in France became know as the "meatgrinder". Because of England's great losses, November 11th became know as Rememberance.

Since the US played a major part in bringing the war to an end, we also remember at 11:00 AM, on the 11th day, of the 11th month by a minute of silence. In my experience I find many, maybe even most don't know the meaning of this day.

This moment at 11:00 am is very specific to this day as it represented the hour when the Armistice went into effect. My dad was in the front lines on the Western Front and always lamented the time it took to get word of the Armistice. They were still fighting on that morning and men on both sides were killed before 11:00 AM.

When I, and I believe others, bow our heads in a moment of silence there is only a rememberance of those who paid the ultimate price. In that moment of silence there is only rememberance and honor, just as on Memorial Day. And because of the silence there is no political agenda presented.

As mentioned above the English experienced great losses and since it is a smaller country then the U.S. and it has a smaller population there is a more personnel relationship between the people and the veterans. The veterans are well remembered and it is likely that each Englishman knew someone, often family, that was touched by that war.

Our losses vs. our size was much less as a percentage of our total population and although we still have the minute of silence at 11:00 AM, many people don't really understand the meaning of that day.

It is my opinion that the English feel very much like the Amerians during the Civil War and all they want to do is remember and honor their soldiers.

I don't believe they engage in the type of politicization of the war that Mr. Apper is trying to do. His comments would be more appropriate on many other days and not on either of these days.

As I say this is only my opinion of how I view these days that "remember and honor" brave men who gave their lives. Others are welcome to look at these days in other ways and if I disagree I will give my opinion of why I disagree.




Jerry West - 6/8/2003

-
NYGuy wrote:

While some forget Memorial Day today is kept alive by millions of former vets, and others who want to remember and honor our war dead. That is what makes this day different then any other day.

JW:

Just a note. In Canada and other Commonwealth countries this function is served by November 11 which is now called Remembrance Day. There is no doubt in anyone's mind, if they pay the slightest attention, why there is a holiday. The TV stations will often run a week's worth of specials leading up to the day, including government financed ads about remembering. Unlike the US, this is one holiday that has not been turned into a three day, three ring circus but falls always on 11 November with ceremonies at memorial sites on the stroke of the 11th hour.

And by the way, it is all political to one degree or another.



NYGuy - 6/7/2003

For you history buff, do you know what happened on this day. If not, ask your parents and grandparents. You probably will find some great Americans who you can be proud of.

Thank you GI's. We appreciate your efforts and sacrifice.


NYGuy - 6/5/2003

David,

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I believe our differences in opinion support my original post on “What Are the Origins of Memorial Day.” where I said:

“I would just add, however, this is such an interesting topic for historians that I would have liked to see some more details on the origins. As best I understand several places in the U. S. have been identified as the beginnings of Memorial Day, the visiting of graveyards and the placing of flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. It would be nice if someone would expand on this national holiday.”

In the article HNN posted it brushed over the beginnings saying:

“The custom of strewing flowers on the graves of their dead soldiers early in the spring of each year originated among the women of the South before the close of the Civil War. In some parts of the North a similar custom grew up, but its observance was not universal.” In my research I found that there was no distinction between Union and Confederate solders in the beginning, and they were properly remembered and honored in both the South and North cemeteries where they lay side by side.

I believe we are beginning our analysis from different stating points and therefore coming to different conclusions. I also believe their is a generational gap, since as you say today many people look at Memorial Day as a three day holiday. Growing up with a WW1 vet and knowing many vets of WW2, I carry a different attitude about this day. That feeling, however, does not validate my analysis. While some forget Memorial Day today is kept alive by millions of former vets, and others who want to remember and honor our war dead. That is what makes this day different then any other day.

My research indicated that those in the South and in the North begun the custom because of their deep feelings about these men and their primary purpose was to remember and honor them. I appreciate your comment that decorating graves with flowers was a relatively new idea. I did not know that. My research shows there was no animosity against one side or the other and I never came across the idea of “waving the red shirt”. This was a solemn occasion.

The History Channel Reports:
“During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. “

Lincoln was invited to Gettysburg to “Consecrate” a Civil War Cemetery, November 19, 1863, well after the Memorial Day custom had been established. To consecrate is to : dedicated to a sacred purpose. Again not for political reasons so I don’t agree with you that this speech did anything to politicize the moment.

As for the song you cited, I was only able to get the first page, and I did not see the words you commented on. But, I think it was more of a remembrance over a great loss than a political statement.

Finally, the official commemoration of Memorial Day was only 3 years after the end of the Civil War so I believe the order issued by General Logan reflected more the earlier concepts of Memorial Day, remembering and honoring the war dead on both side, rather than a political comment.

Enjoyed your comments and if you have any further thoughts I would like to hear them. While the above is my opinion I am always open to other views on this issue. However, I still feel strongly that Mr. Appy’s use of living veterans for his political purpose demeans both the vets and the day.


David Salmanson - 6/5/2003

NY Guy,
You seem to miss the point. My argument is that the treating of Confederate and Union war dead as the same marked a shift in the way the North understood the war. If you kept reading the song lyrics, you would hit lines like "They lost but still were good and true." which was a very different way for most Northerners to think about the Confederate war dead and tied to questions surrounding the continuation of reconstruction.
As for the antecedent holidays, as a historian I tend to be biased towards the past connecting to the present. Thus I do not think the May 30 holiday was suddenly invented out of thin air as you seem to suggest. All of the lawmakers would have been familiar with the Gettysburg address as a memorial/political acitivity and most, if not all, would have a familiarity with the Pericles funeral oration and all the ones who were college educated would know it well. What is interesting in the early Memorial Day accounts is the additional layer of 19th century sentimentality (decoration of graves with flowers being a relatively new idea) being added.
To sum up, I am arguing that the origins of Memorial Day are tied to the politics of the day. That more recently, some people, such as yourself, have tended to not think of it as political. I have not said which I think is better how I feel about the holiday. I suppose I could ask for evidence that "most Americans" think the way that you do about the holiday now. Has someone done surveys on this? But given the attendance at parades versus beaches/sales at the mall/movies etc. I suspect most Americans think of it as just another three day weekend. And that, to me, is the saddest part of all.


David Salmanson - 6/5/2003

NY Guy,


NYGuy - 6/5/2003

Dave,

It seems like you wasted your 15 minutes. What part of this definition do you not understand?

Memorial Day, May 30 formerly observed as a legal holiday in most states of the U.S. in remembrance of war dead.

Your “if we assume” does introduce a political context into the discussion and enables you to express one point of view among many, which interprets the Confederate Soldiers who died as “traitors”, which automatically shifts the discussion to politics.

As seen in the definition above, Memorial Day is for “the remembrance of war dead.” So if you want to exclude Confederate Soldiers, do so, but the definition of Memorial Day is not changed for the rest of us who have someone to remember and honor. If you have no respect for any war dead you can also do that. If you want to quote those who survived, while others are remembering loved ones who are buried, or whose bodies where never recovered on this day, then I will say the same to you I said to Mr. Appy, “you are shameless, insensitive and shallow.”

I don’t see how the song you mention proves anything other than confirming the definition of Memorial Day.

The song is dedicated to: “Ladies of the South who are decorating the graves of the Confederate Dead.” (Remember the definition of Memorial Day and war dead.)

The title is “Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping”

The first line is “Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping Dear ones loved in days gone by.”

The second line “Here we find our noble dead. Their spirits soard to him above.” (Again, do you remember the definition of Memorial Day and war dead.)

Thank God for these brave men, they enable you to say whatever you want. And, it allows me to say what most Americans and I believe.


David Salmanson - 6/4/2003

Sorry it took me so long to write back. Here is my evidence. The first official proclamation by a federal official (1868 Gen. Joshua Logan, whose orders are available at American Memory website) ordered decoration of graves for soldiers who had fallen defending their country and both union and confederate graves at Arlington were decorated. From one perspective this seems perfectly apolitical. However, if we assume that Confederate soldiers were not taking up arms to defend their country but were the John Walker Lindhs of their day, that is, people who took up arms against a duly elected US government than the order and its carrying out to include Confederate dead is political and can be understood as part of a shift from Radical Reconstruction/punishment to concilliation. (See Romance of Reunion for more on the shifts in narratives about the war that took place in this time period). See, for example,this piece of sheet music in American Memory from the same year that indulges much the same narrative technique and compare it to the lyrics of, for example, John Brown's Body. http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/sheetmusic/b/b08/b0802/b0802-2-72dpi.html

The persistence of Confederate Memorial Day in various states that never merged their Memorial Days into the national holiday continues to serve the mythology of the Lost Cause/South will rise again thinking. These are just two examples that took all of 15 minutes to find.

Of course, the roots of memorial day go back to Pericles' Funeral Oration which is pointed to as a classic example of political speech. In American context, we could also look at the Gettysburg address (the supreme example of American political speech) as an important predecessor moment.


NYGuy - 6/2/2003

Jerry,

I will repeat my point again. I believe memorial day is a time for remembering and honoring brave men not for political statements.

As for Appy's lecture, I believe it is out of place and dishonors the vets he cites. Not only would those who died trade places with them, but families whose sons were never returned would be happy to have their sons back even if they were dead.

As I said I don't want to politicize memorial day. If, however, you want to play "what if" you are welcome to go ahead with predictions of the outcome. The fact is the US broke the Hindenberg Line and stopped the slaughter. A truly humanitarian foreign policy.


Jerry West - 6/2/2003

-
NYGuy wrote:

Again, Vietnam was not our only war. We had two other wars which were necessary and bigger and in which the U. S. saved the world

JW:

This strays from the original topic but the claim that the US saved the world in either war is an exaggeration.

What exactly did the world need saving from in the first war? A bunch of colonial powers jockeying for position, many of them monarchies, allowed a chain of events to lead them into a mess that nobody ever imagined. It could be argued that had the US not intervened the resulting peace that would eventually come would have avoided many of the problems caused by the one that the victors did impose on the vanquished. The world might have been better served had the US not handed the victory to the Anglo/Franco alliance.

As for WWII one could also argue that the Soviet Union saved the world, at least from Germany, and with the help of Japan.

It would be more accurate to say that the Allies, of which the US was an important part, saved the world in WWII.

Of course all of this begs the question of what did we do to bring about these wars in the first place. Learning how to prevent wars and their causes is much more important in the long run than being able to win them.


NYGuy - 6/1/2003


HC you wrote:

"NY Guy, you wrote, to Mr. West

"As a Vietnam vet you can say and believe anything you want. Thanks for your service. "

Does that mean that if you are NOT a veteran, you can't say anything you want? Or believe anything you want? It certainly implies it."

I wrote a respectful comment to Mr. West in which I thanked him for his service. I have great respect for servicemen and women, particularly those who have been in combat as Mr. West has told us. I am from another generation. My father was gassed during the first war and was still fighting on November 11. A cousin was wounded at Ansio, I met those on the Bataan death march, tail gunners, Congressional Medal of Honor winners and the list goes on. My great grandfather was wounded at Gettysburg and felt the onslaught of Chancellorsville. I remember the Nazis soldiers who dressed as Americans and massacred captured American soldiers. War is hell and no one will argue that for both the soldier and those civilians back home.

Mr. Appy, however, can not even allow one day to remember those brave men who have fallen. I lost a cousin whose body, along with the bodies of the rest of the crew was never found. His father would gladly trade his son’s faith with those mentioned by Mr. Appy. He would even take the body back dead just so he could bury him and have final closer.

This day is a special day of remembering the dead and we don’t need Mr. Appy to lecture us on war. The American people just want to remember and honor. Mr. Appy in my opinion doesn’t want to allow them this moment. Shame. If he wants to promote some anti-war agenda publish it on another occasion. But as I said he is insensitive to others and acts in a shameful way in my opinion.

Mr. West disagrees and I don’t care to make memorial day a political issue. That is why I made the statement I did.

You however, have set up a straw man and then knocked it down. That is your problem since all I never said a vet has more or less rights to public expression than others.

Again, Vietnam was not our only war. We had two other wars which were necessary and bigger and in which the U. S. saved the world

I have told you before I may not agree with but I respect your right to express them. That is what makes this country so great and is another reason for us to just remember those who gave their lifes, on one special day, to make it so.

Cheers


Jerry West - 5/31/2003

-
Dear HC Carey:

If you are a Democratic you have fewer rights to speak than a Republican, and if you are a member of a fringe party, even less rights. If you belong to no party it is a toss up, just don't criticize Rush Limbaugh, George Bush or Mickey Mouse.

Now, you get reedemable points for having US flag stickers stuck everywhere, and more if the antenna of your car has one. Even more if you have a long whip antenna with a big one on it.

You don't have to go to church, but if you do it had better be Christian, and not one of those wimpy ones that believes that love is a more important message than vengence.

It also helps to believe that God was really the first president of the United States, and that all of the Republican presidents in recent history have been his direct emissaries on earth, while Satan has won a few battles, notably by slipping Slick Willie in there during most of the 90's.

You missed out on not being a vet, both the good and the bad, and there are both. Fortunately, being a vet is not a prequalification for citizenship or being entitled to exercise one's rights, and certainly does not necessarily make one a better citizen, though it may provide a few different insights.

In fact, if the country were being run by vets rather than draft dodgers, we probably would not have gone into Iraq and possibly even Afghanistan.

And of course you are right, Americans serve their country in a myriad of ways, and everyone of them who contributes what they can is worthy, for it takes all of us together, in all walks of life, to weave the fabric which makes the US a great nation.


HC Carey - 5/31/2003

NY Guy, you wrote, to Mr. West

"s a vietnam vet you can say and believe anything you want. Thanks for your service. "

Does that mean that if you are NOT a veteran, you can't say anything you want? Or believe anything you want? It certainly implies it.

As a 43 year old, I was too young for vietnam. Has this accident of birth forever curbed my rights to free speech?

There are a lot of implications to yuor stement. If you serve in peacetime, are your rights less sweeping than if you serve in wartime? By your reasoning, a vet who actuallys sees combat would have more rights than a vet who serves in a logistical capacity, far from combat. That vet would have slightly lesser rights than the combat vet,, but more rights than the peacetime service guy, and certanly more rights than the rest of us, who cannot "say and believe anything we want" because we aren't vets.

What about people who serve their contry in other capacities--say through the peace corp, or by volunteering at soup kitchens, or choosing careers that pay less but seem to them to have a public service function? I guess they would get "special rights" too. Cops, i suppose, could always say more and believe more freely than the rest of us. How about people who adopt foster kids? women who endure abusive husbands? Bouncers in rough bars? Assembly line workers who deal with hazardous waste? They risk their lives and get paid for it, tough not as well as vets.

NY Guy, I can only assume that you really don't understand the concept of civil liberties and the right of free speeech. It's universal, for ALL citizens, and it's largely but not entirely unencumbered by limits. No doubt you will blow self righteously now about how I have "belittled" veerans by daring to comare them to other workers, etc etc. This is the thing about free speech--it's not confiined to only speech you approve of

At 43 I'm too old for the service. i will have to live, then, with sharply constrained rights to free speech. Will you let me know what I'm generally allowed?


NYGuy - 5/29/2003

Jerry,

As a vietnam vet you can say and believe anything you want. Thanks for your service.


Jerry West - 5/29/2003

NYGuy wrote:

I find Appy's use of vetnam veterans, for his own purposes, and on this Day, a shameful act.

JW:

So what? I am a Vietnam veteran and quite approve of Mr. Appy's use of veteran's experiences to put flesh on the meaning of war on this day of rememberance, and there are a number from that war that I personally remember.


Jerry West - 5/29/2003

-
NYGuy wrote:

We don't need to have a Clintonian spin on Memorial Day. It has a history of its own and the original purpose was to honor brave men and loyal Americans on both sides of the Civil War. For most of us this is very clear.

JW:

There were only loyal Americans on one side in the Civil War. No matter how you cut it, the rebels were traitors to the US who took up arms against and killed loyal Americans. One might say they were the Al Qaeda of the 1860's.

They were very fortunate indeed that the US had the kindness to forgive them and take them back into the fold at the end of the war. Not the kind of enlightened thinking one hears today from those who mouth the radical regressive propaganda which they falsely label patriotism.


Les - 5/28/2003

How, exactly, is it "political" to take time to remember the lives of civilians lost during wartime along with the lives of military personnel? I know that civilians don't sign up to travel overseas and fight, but does that make their lives somehow less valuable? If it's not okay to remember them on Memorial Day, when is it okay to remember them?


Les - 5/28/2003

I suppose we'll just have to agree to disagree, but if you think that unquestioning support of military operations and those who carry them out isn't political, I'm afraid you've deluded yourself.

"Finallly,your question is a phony one. The isssue is not insulting "the memories of dead brave men, it exposing the hypocrisy of the living."

So essentially, you're saying that YOUR statement to Mr. Appy, "Stop your know nothing comments that adds nothing to the debate about war, but insult the memory of brave men" is phony? I'm confused. How is asking you to clarify a statement (which you've, so far, neglected to do) phony?


NYGuy - 5/28/2003

According to HNN's article:

"The custom of strewing flowers on the graves of their dead soldiers early in the spring of each year originated among the women of the South before the close of the Civil War. In some parts of the North a similar custom grew up, but its observance was not universal."

In my extensive investigations of this holiday I have never come across the agenda you put forth. Could you please supply your documentation that:

" According to HNN's own history of memorial day posted above, it was deeply tied to the civil war and presented an opportunity both to "wave the bloody shirt" and "revive the lost cause."

My sense is this was a spent period in our nations history and the desire to: "wave the bloody shirt" and "revive the lost cause." was furthest from the minds of the sensitive and gentle people who brought flowers to the graves of both the North and South.

You say: Memorial Day has always served political ends. I have been watching and appreciating Memorial Day for many years and remembering my great-grandfather who was at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville, as well as other family members, etc. Anyone who read of the heroic men on both sides would never chose to turn Memorial Day into an opportunity for political propaganda. I never saw this day being used for political ends until I read this board. If you have evidence bring it forward.

My point is that this is a solemn occassion for the great majority of "True Americans". If people want to redefine the meaning of Memorial Day they can do it. After all, we are honoring men who helped keep this country free and enable all types to express their opinion. So say what you want and I will defend your right to do so. Please, allow me to express my opinion on this topic also. I find Appy's use of vetnam veterans, for his own purposes, and on this Day, a shameful act.


David Salmanson - 5/28/2003

According to HNN's own history of memorial day posted above, it was deeply tied to the civil war and presented an opportunity both to "wave the bloody shirt" and "revive the lost cause." Memorial Day has always served political ends both for those in power (the North) and those not (the South). It is not Appy or Les who is breaking with tradition but NY GUY. Which is not to say that Memorial Day should or shouldn't be politicized, but rather to point out who is innovating.


NYGus - 5/28/2003

I thought I answered your question but you don't want an answer you want to promote your propaganda. This is an old trick on this board. I will repeat it again.

1) The difference between soldiers and civilians is that civilians do not leave their home to shed their blood either in other places, as in the Civil War or on foreign lands, for their country. No one is claiming that civilians are irrevelavent.

2)Memorial day is a day to honor and remember soldiers who died defending their country by both their relatives and other Americans who respect their sacrifice.

3) This day is not a critique on the merits of war or the atrocities of war or the civilians killed in war which is a separate issue.

4)If you want to politicize the death of these brave men you can. Most of us prefer to focus on the memory of these patriots on this day and their sacrifices.

5)As for Mr. Appy I find it offensive to tell us that on this day we don't know about war so he provides stories of those who survived. It is difficult to talk about these men and I have great respect for them. But providing a "Vietnam View" by living Vietnam vets at a time when we are mourning those who died, is insensitive and an insult to all of us. Everyone would love to have their dead relative exchange places with the people he cites. He insults both the living and dead veterans.

7)As you agree, who all understand war and its horrors. That is not what Memorial Day is for. Therefore lets not make it a political issue. Those issues can be debated at a separate time.

You added these comments to your discussion of remembering those who sacrificed for their country. This is your opinion.

"It is possible, believe it or not, to love this country and to respect those in service, while criticizing both. One could argue that when troops are sent into battle under false, political pretenses, that those who send them thusly, honor them less than those who, knowing history well enough to understand the hell that war is, reserve to wage it only when one's country is directly threatened.

I think when our military leaders explicitely state that they will not attempt to account for the lives of civilians lost due to our actions, they dishonor the lives of the servicemen and women who were fighting to liberate those civilians. To not take responsibility for one's actions is cowardly, whether you're a combat veteran or a politician or merely a commentator on an internet bulletin board.

There are many people in the service or who have served who share my point of view on this, though you're right that we're in the minority. So when you question my love of country, you question theirs as well."

8)If you want to spout your political propaganda as you did above, I respect your right to do so. My opinion is this is not the proper time or format to foster such views on people who are in sorrow. Again, as I have said I believe the "hate america group" has stooped to a new low by their attempt to change the meaning of Memorial Day so they can spread their own propaganda. If you are not one of these people then their is no reason for you to take offense. After all we are discussing Appy's article.

Finallly,your question is a phony one. The isssue is not insulting "the memories of dead brave men, it exposing the hypocrisy of the living.


Les - 5/28/2003

Sorry, but it seems to be posting my replies all in the same place. Sorry for any confusion.


Les - 5/28/2003

Wow. You've come to some fascinating conclusions based on very little information.

"You are obviously not a history major, but a political propagandist and therefore want to redefine Memorial Day for your “we hate America” propaganda."

No where in my comment did I imply that I hated America, nor could I have, since I love my homeland quite a lot. It's rather sad to see you label me as an America hater merely because I also take time to remember the lives of civilians lost during war time as well as those in service.

I'm well aware of the battles you mentioned, well aware of the horrors that those in the service endured. That you should suggest that I'm not, again merely because I included civilians in my memories, is reactionary, inappropriate, and rather insulting as I, too, have relatives who died in service to this country.

I understand the origins of Memorial Day, just as I understand the origins of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Labor Day, etc.. All Americans celebrate these holidays in different, personal ways. It's a American tradition to do so.

It is possible, believe it or not, to love this country and to respect those in service, while criticizing both. One could argue that when troops are sent into battle under false, political pretenses, that those who send them thusly, honor them less than those who, knowing history well enough to understand the hell that war is, reserve to wage it only when one's country is directly threatened.

I think when our military leaders explicitely state that they will not attempt to account for the lives of civilians lost due to our actions, they dishonor the lives of the servicemen and women who were fighting to liberate those civilians. To not take responsibility for one's actions is cowardly, whether you're a combat veteran or a politician or merely a commentator on an internet bulletin board.

There are many people in the service or who have served who share my point of view on this, though you're right that we're in the minority. So when you question my love of country, you question theirs as well.

Finally, I wasn't surprised to notice that, in your fervor to label me, you never answered my question, so I'll repeat it.

How, exactly, does remembering the sacrifices made by American soldiers (along with their families) and foreign civilians "insult the memories of brave men"?


Les - 5/28/2003

I tend to agree with you, but I won't let our fellow citizens off the hook so easily. In this day and age, ignorance is increasingly willful.


Les - 5/28/2003

Wow. You've come to some fascinating conclusions based on very little information.

"You are obviously not a history major, but a political propagandist and therefore want to redefine Memorial Day for your “we hate America” propaganda."

No where in my comment did I imply that I hated America, nor could I have, since I love my homeland quite a lot. It's rather sad to see you label me as an America hater merely because I also take time to remember the lives of civilians lost during war time as well as those in service.

I'm well aware of the battles you mentioned, well aware of the horrors that those in the service endured. That you should suggest that I'm not, again merely because I included civilians in my memories, is reactionary, inappropriate, and rather insulting as I, too, have relatives who died in service to this country.

I understand the origins of Memorial Day, just as I understand the origins of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Labor Day, etc.. All Americans celebrate these holidays in different, personal ways. It's a American tradition to do so.

It is possible, believe it or not, to love this country and to respect those in service, while criticizing both. One could argue that when troops are sent into battle under false, political pretenses, that those who send them thusly, honor them less than those who, knowing history well enough to understand the hell that war is, reserve to wage it only when one's country is directly threatened.

I think when our military leaders explicitely state that they will not attempt to account for the lives of civilians lost due to our actions, they dishonor the lives of the servicemen and women who were fighting to liberate those civilians. To not take responsibility for one's actions is cowardly, whether you're a combat veteran or a politician or merely a commentator on an internet bulletin board.

There are many people in the service or who have served who share my point of view on this, though you're right that we're in the minority. So when you question my love of country, you question theirs as well.

Finally, I wasn't surprised to notice that, in your fervor to label me, you never answered my question, so I'll repeat it.

How, exactly, does remembering the sacrifices made by American soldiers (along with their families) and foreign civilians "insult the memories of brave men"?


NYGuy - 5/27/2003

Les:

We don't need to have a Clintonian spin on Memorial Day. It has a history of its own and the original purpose was to honor brave men and loyal Americans on both sides of the Civil War. For most of us this is very clear.

Civilians do not volunteer to go to foreign lands and shed their blood. That does not mean that civilian casualties are not regrettable, they happens in all wars, including the Civil War. Killing is not an admirable trait.

But, the people who started Memorial Day did not do a critique on war. They wanted to recognize the brave men who volunteered and were also drafted and fought what they believed in and for our freedoms. As has been pointed out the other wars the U. S. has been involved in were to save the world, WWI and WWII, etc. As for Vietnam, it was like other war and a bad experience, not unlike the Korea war, which is another forgotten war. And we have also been in Bosnia and the Gulf wars. These brave men are also remembered on this day.

Have you ever read the story of Iwo Jima, the landing at Normandy, the battle for Italy, etc? Do you know what our soldiers went through during this period? Have you ever found out why they called the Western Front of WWI, another forgotten war, and the “meat grinder”?

There is nothing new in this article except to say that everyone he quoted survived. All American’s and I are happy to hear this. But we are honoring those who did not return, and those whose bodies were never recovered. And the only land we claimed was the graves of many of these heroes in Europe and other foreign lands.

You are obviously not a history major, but a political propagandist and therefore want to redefine Memorial Day for your “we hate America” propaganda. You have the right to join the minority opinion in this discussion, even thought you are wrong.

For millions of Americans, however, who have actually lost family, i.e. father, mother, grandparents, great grandparent, etc., we truly mourn these ancestors not to be political but because we appreciate their sacrifices.

By the way, TV and the movies have nothing to do with reality as the stories in this article and those personal experiences written about all previous wars attest to.

If it makes you happy to politicize the death of brave men you have that right. And what your kind is starting to find out is that many of us “true Americans” are tired of your sitting in a comfortable, ivory tower and making judgments about real men and women who don’t run scared when their country calls. My opinion is this is shameful behavior by those with a political bankrupt philosophy and who are merely looking for a new way to be recognized.


Herodotus - 5/27/2003

"I think there is a lot of evidence that Americans do tend to ignore the harsher realities of war. You can see it in the comparitively sterile and romantic coverage in the television reports of our most recent conflict "

You mean just because a few hundred reporters and editors decided on what they thought we ought to see this is evidence that Americans tend to ignore the harsher realities of war? No...it's that a few hundred reporters and editors, in a business of selling something, decided to turn to the next thing that they wanted to sell. The American people have nothing to do with it.


Les - 5/27/2003

How, exactly, does remembering the sacrifices made by American soldiers (along with their families) and foreign civilians "insult the memories of brave men"?

I think there is a lot of evidence that Americans do tend to ignore the harsher realities of war. You can see it in the comparitively sterile and romantic coverage in the television reports of our most recent conflict or even in our continuted acceptance of the lousy pay and treatment of our soldiers.

Memorial Day is, for some of us, a day to remember and mourn the loss of not only the people who signed up to serve the U.S., but the civilians who were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time and who have been explicitly ignored by the U.S. military and a majority of U.S. citizens.


NYGuy - 5/27/2003

Herodotus:

I am not trolling you and have tried to refrained from posting on this article although I expressed my thoughts on HNN's proper and earlier rememberance of Memorial Day, which I applauded. Your comments, however, are right on target.

I believe this piece goes over the line. Look at this sick comment by Christian G. Appy. He is shameless. There are many Americans who want to pay tribute and remember their relatives and friends who gave their life to make America great. Even as I was reading this article the president was speaking of those from the Iraq war who were being honored and buried in Arlington. Words that I am sure brought great comfort to their familes. Meanwhile millions of other Americans had their memories of family members who they admired and appreciated since they help give us this great country.

Meanwhile, Christian G. Appy is thinking only about his feelings and does not have any concern for the feelings of millions who sorrow on this special day. I think often of my cousin and the other members of the Special Services plane that went down in the ocean during the first Gulf War. All received Silver Stars because of their actions. The bodies were never found. That is painful for his family and firm reminders of the perils and agonies of war. And, there are other family members who were not KIA but survived at Concord, Gettysburg, the Western Front, Europe in WWII, Vietnam, Bosnia, etc.

But Mr. Appy does not care about anyone else's feelings because he has such an important message to send to the world. Read what he says.

"With Memorial Day upon us, and in the wake of our most recent war, one that will not end soon for many Iraqis and some Americans, it's worth turning back to the suffering caused by another war, now long distant but still painfully present, to help us recognize the kinds of realities we are too easily tempted to ignore."

Mr. Appy who are these people who "are too easily temped to ignore." The great majority of Americans do "recognize the kinds of realities" everytime we honor those who gave their lifes to make this the great country it is. Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, the meatgrinder on the Western Front during WW1. Iwo Jima, Battle of the Bulge, etc etc. How dare you make such an ignorant judgement about the American people. The hate America manta has reached a new low.

Today, Congressional Medal of Honor winner Bob Kerry said it best: "I was lucky enought to win the ovarian lottery and be born in this country." This is what most Americans believe and do not appreciate an insensitive political hack to try to "Rain on our Parade." We do understand the horrors of war and do not enjoy seeing our loved be killed and maimed. Stop your know nothing comments that adds nothing to the debate about war, but insult the memory of brave men.

Get a life. Grow up.

More soldiers were killed in the Civil War then in any other American War. Memorial Day dates back to this war.


Herodotus - 5/27/2003

Interesting piece. But I must quibble with the beginning argument. This guy reads the paper and sees no front page story on Iraq, and then concludes oh how we're deluding ourselves about how there is nothing going on there.

What kind of person only relies on one newspaper for all his information, and what kind of person turns over to the editors of that one paper all the power to decide what is supposed to be important or worth paying attention to in his life?

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