Blog 2283 – 01.21.2022
Glorify War No More
The few remaining World War 2 veterans are rapidly taking their final bows and even many of the Korean War Veterans have already made their exits from this stage of life. From my generation, the Vietnam Veterans are after years of stigma and neglect taking center stage on Veterans Days, Memorial Days, Fourth of Julys, and proudly wearing their Vietnam Veteran caps out in public.
We were not welcomed home with parades and bands as the World War 2 vets were. The Korean War veterans were not lauded either and their war, actually not even called a war for many years but like Vietnam a policing action, was shorter lived than Nam and had fewer dead and fewer who served. MASH the TV drama/sitcom about Army doctors battling to save the lives of wounded military people in that conflict aired throughout most of the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and detailed how battlefield hospitals sent so many more broken, but living soldiers home than we had seen in any previous war where most soldiers did not survive even less serious war wounds.
Last weekend my wife and I saw the new Kingsman movie. It is a prequel to the first two movies and deals with the beginning of the fictional private British secret service founded to try to prevent wars. World War 1 was touted as the war to end all wars. Sadly it was not. When I was a boy there were still surviving veterans of the Spanish American War and we were taught to sing WW1 songs like Over There and Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Ole Kit Bag. Our dads, still relatively young men were in The Greatest Generation, a term not coined till some years later, for the generation of men and women who served during World War 2 and those who supported them.
When I was ten years old playing Army in the neighborhood woods with my buddies, two of the most popular night time TV shows were Combat and Gallant Men, both WW2 dramas. In the new Kingsman movie, Ralph Fiennes, who played long time Harry Potter nemesis Voldemort, has the lead role of a man who loses his wife trying to prevent the escalating events that precipitated a second war in South Africa at the turn of the last century 1899 to 1902 called The Second Boer War. Dying in his arms his wife makes him promise to keep their young son from of participating in any future wars. How hard he tries, but in the end fails and sadly as so many fathers loses his son to what soldiers in the WW1 trenches called The Meat Grinder. The grieving father eulogies his son before his king and an audience of others who has lost loved ones to war by reading a poem that his son had on him when he died about the tragedy of glorifying war and teaching our children to believe that it is a good a noble thing to die for one’s country. It reminded me of the famous quote from American World War 2 General George Patton who said to his men, “It is not your job to die for your country, but to make some other dumb son of a bitch die for his.” It would appear at least on the surface that General Patton was aware that the men who keep fighting wars are all dumb sons of bitches really.
High time we wised up and realized that we have only ever had one enemy of our souls and that his/her name is ego, that creation of our own that we invented so we could entertain council other than that of our true higher power, our highest best self, whose message in every season has always been, “Peace on earth, good will to all.”
Since last Veterans Day I have been wearing a cap that I ordered for the occasion but actually received a day late. It has gotten me a couple of free meals, a discount on one meal, and several enthusiastic “Thank you for your service” comments. I was more fortunate than most Vietnam War Veterans not to have actually “been in the shit” but I just did the job of a teletype repairman during most of my eleven month tour in Nam. I often tell folks when asked about my war experience that the only combat I saw in Vietnam was the movie Patton, with George C. Scott.
Thanking people for their military service and wearing caps or ribbons should not be misconstrued as glorifying the carnage and wasteful ignorance of war. When the famous Civil War photographer Matthew Brady was asked why he took so many horrifying pictures of the carnage of Civil War battlefields, he said it was to help prevent those atrocities from ever happening again. Like the Kingsman the promise of those photographs failed to accomplish its desire outcome, but that does not mean we should stop trying to give peace a chance.
Every honest soldier would testify with another famous general, this one named William, the Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, that “War is Hell.” Sherman’s middle name honors another famous military man who helped form another confederacy that failed.
The following is from a poem that I had published in the Pacific Stars And Stripes in a column called Boondocks Bards during the eleven months I spent in Vietnam fifty two years ago:
“Oh, that men did not war
And lovers did not part.”
To quote another poem along the same vein, “Only love can break a heart, only love can mend it again.”
Your friend and fellow traveler,
Determined to study war no more,