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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day 2010

Once again, Veteran's Day has rolled around. In Connecticut, schools were closed and I would gather my daughter and walk down to the Monuments on Broad Street. Quite often, there was a parade which started at the school, wound around the block and finished at the monuments where a volley was fired in salute, wreaths were laid, speaches and prayers delivered. Here, there are no monuments (instead, Troy's Football Stadium was constructed as a memorial), school is in session, and I marched in no parade.

It doesn't mean I don't think about it. I like what President Woodrow Wilson said: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" I like that the original act to recognize what was then Armistice day said:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples. I am especially thankful to the infantry who I think always gets the bad end of the stick.

Later, an act was created to established the day as a day to promote World Peace. I rather like that too.

I don't like that another war followed and that we have had many more since. I thank Veteran's when I see them. My grandfather served in both World War II and World War II, my father and his twin in World War II (my uncle being killed at Okinawa), my nephew served, my husband's cousin, Domingo Ochotorena, while a naturalized citizen served in Gulf I and is currently retired. I thank my niece's boyfriend, Andrew Cole for serving in Iraq (Semper fi, guy) and I pray that all of those who are currently serving and those who have left the service find some rest from the horrors that they have seen, and adapt to the lives that they now lead.

My dad, now 88, has been sharing stories of the War. He didn't use to. I only used to hear him talk about it when he got together with our friend, Karl Simroth, who interestingly enough, served in the Hitler Youth, as all young men in Germany who were too young to fight did. It was interesting to hear both sides.

When I was out there in September, Dad spoke with my sister about Anzio, spurred by a book that he had recently read. Dad was in the 5th Army Corps of Engineers and went from North Africa, to Salerno, to Anzio and on up and at the end of the war was at Innsbruck, Austria.

Dad said that this particular book, wasn't entirely accurate. According to the author, the German's were "beaten back", but dad, who spent three weeks (not vacationing mind you) at Borgo Sabatino said that the Germans withdrew because of other pressures to the north.

It's funny what becomes indelible inscribed in memory. Dad noted the location on a map where a Pole and an Italian , fully armed and part of the service troops (probably ran the kitchen), surrendered to him along the road while other GI’s were asleep nearby…but not near their weapons. He noted that probably that was fortunate – if someone had opened fire there would have been an incident. The GI’s weapons were propped up against a nearby building. An English “chap” offered me a cup of tea in a tin cup. It was too hot to drink. It was the same morning, May 25, when the two prisoners surrendered to me. Isn't it odd? That snapshot of the Brit offering dad tea....It is also funny as dad drinks his coffee REALLY hot.

Dad also almost became a casualty from friendly fire....This story is a testament how rattled people can be when under stressful situations:

"I was shot at by friendly fire as I knelt down at this location. I was setting out a listening post in no man’s land and had told the people in the machine gun position that I was going (out to set up the listening post) and would return. They (the gunners) had tied tin cans to the telephone line and when I moved the line to see of the phone was operable the cans rattled. They hadn’t informed me about the cans. When they heard the cans rattle, they fired without identifying their target. I saw the tracers going over my back and if I had been standing…that would’ve been it. I took off running toward a barn and wondering what I was going to do. The company commander came into the barn. He asked me who they were shooting at and I said “me.” He asked me what I was going to do and I answered that I was thinking of going to the German line (as dad thought it would be safer....of course, he has the same weird sense of humor I do). He then asked where they were shooting and I said they were shooting high. He then went out into the open and to the strong point whereupon he reprimanded the shooters for shooting to high. Thanks a lot.

As I have been struggling with the pain from the cancer and the fatigue I have from the chemo, I keep on thinking of all the young men and women who will have long term pain, and those who will never turn their faces to the sun again. While I don't think that I have lived long enough at age 50, to look back at their lives cut short in half the time, I often feel like I don't have anything to complain about. I just wish that somehow human nature would finally get it right and see no point to having war at all. Of course, that's merely a dream.

1 comment:

Vivien Zepf said...

Listening to my parents' stories about life in Germany is pretty sobering, too. My mom lost most of her family because they spoke out against Hitler and spent years as a refugee. She was lucky enough to get a pass to West Germany where, upon entering the displaced persons camp, she was given an orange by a GI. She will never forget that kindness