Thursday, November 26, 2009

#172 Veterans Day ... III--the Great Sequel

The Germans, though, were finally forced to throw in the towel at the end of WWII. No wimpy armistice here. Not a stand-off, cease-fire, truce. Rather, abject and unconditional surrender on the part of Nazi Germany; total victory for the allied countries. It was Victory in Europe Day, celebrated everywhere on 8 May 1945. In this famous snapshot, a Georgia sailor-boy, sent into battle by my Granddaddy Edmund's draft board, jubilates the occasion in Times Square. Well ... could of been. He's never been indisputably identified.

Again we got in late; again we won the war for them. And once again we reluctantly fought a perfectly righteous, DEFENSIVE WAR. We hadn't quite yet developed our penchant for belligerent interventionism that has characterized our foreign policy forever after. On the defense, and surviving veterans, were two of my blood-uncles from either side of the family. One of them was the son of that same WWI Cpl. C. A. Edmunds, named Pierce, who served in the second one as a rear-turret gunner. "Tail-Gunner" Pierce. Considering that assignment's casualty-rate, no need to point out how lucky he was to be alive to celebrate Veterans Day later in November of that victorious year. But wait ... it was still officially Armistice Day. Only WWI veterans need apply. And moreover it was still meant to be a sort of Wilsonesque PEACE celebration. But the war in the Pacific hadn't ended yet, really for years to come, as it turned out. Korea, Vietnam, and all that.

For even when it officially was, it wasn't. It seems to me that getting entangled in the "Pacific Rim" in the final stages of WWII--we had to, of course--was our undoing for another 60 years. The wars started to pile up-- interventionist, non-defensive wars carried out, for the most part, on the other side of the planet. And the VETERANS!--they now began to run into the millions. It must have occurred to some folks in Congress that the current "honor-thy-veteran" Armistice Day just wasn't cutting it for those un-dead warriors returning from battles fought apres WWI. So after the Korean War, a bill was passed and signed by President/General Eisenhower on 26 May 1954 extending recognition on Nov. 11th of every year to ALL armed-service veterans of ANY war, or no war at all. But here's the wrinkle: it was still to be called Armistice Day! But this, apparently on second thought, wouldn't quite wash. So on Nov. 8th of that year--in the nick of time--an amended bill was sent and signed, re-naming the federal holiday "Veterans Day." All pretense of any association with peace-making was thus permanently abandoned.

And rightly so. We were by then the policemen of the world, and would remain quick on the trigger for the rest of the century and beyond. Just this little bit of perspective should do it: TOTAL TIME American forces fought in BOTH World Wars = only HALF the time our troops have been fighting in Afghanistan ... so far. The Germans after the "Great War" had it right all along: Volkstrauertag. Mourn your heroic war-dead once a year (our Memorial Day) and be done with it. Veterans? Fugeddaboutit. We're all veterans. Moreover, veterans now could be veterans all over again after the next war ... and the next ... (more)

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