Friday, November 11, 2011


There has been much talk about not politicizing veterans today, and that is as it should be. So I’m going to challenge some paradigms. A Yankee soldier was asked why he was burying the remains of a Confederate who had died along a mountain trail in New Mexico. He shrugged and said, “They’re all some mother’s sons.”

I have met veterans of the Luftwaffe and Wehrmacht, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, and of the North Vietnamese army. (I’ve probably met a few more-or-less reconstructed VC, too, but they don’t put that information on their name tags!) I have found them all to be good men. Some will express bitterness or cynicism after a few beers, but that’s certainly no indictment. They answered their countries’ calls, and did their best. I don’t know what horrors they may have seen or even participated in, and I don’t feel a need to know.

Whatever flag they followed, there was a picture of a girl somewhere in their kits, and neither the shade of her skin nor the shape of her eyes made a spittin’ bit of difference. They shared with their American enemies a willingness to do the unspeakable, should be required of them. They put their necks on the blocks. That the axe didn’t fall on them is not the least bit relevant to the value of that quality. If we honor courage – as we should – does it matter if the courage were cloaked in feldegrau, or that awful mustardy-yellow instead of khaki or forest green? I think it does not.

There’s little enough of that quality in evidence today - and though the United States is more than richly blessed with so much of it - I do not believe the human tribe can afford to belittle or ignore that which has blessed other nations.

In fact, there is an old Sioux proverb that says, “The greatness of a man may be seen in the greatness of his enemies.” If our soldiers are brave, and their victories great, we can not say that those they strove against were low, or mean, or trivial.

If you know someone who served his or her nation, let them know you value their commitment and courage, and that you are pleased to call them countrymen.

(As I finished this, it dawned on me that I forget that the internet is an international forum, and that my American hubris may not be all that palatable to some. I will not apologize or ask pardon, but say that the story of your lands is up to you to tell, and when you tell it, I will listen. The story of my own land is so far beyond my capacity to tell that I would be foolish, indeed to tackle yours, too.)

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