Op-Ed

Veterans Day for Just One American Hero

I love marching bands and parades but I don’t go all soppy on Veterans Day remembering our fallen heroes.  That is because Veterans Day is the one day I don’t  think about them.  Sounds odd, doesn’t it?  Instead, it is the day I reserve for a private thanksgiving for what those men and women have given us – our country, safe and whole.  That makes it a second Fourth of July for me, one more day each year on which I feel especially good and very proud.  It’s also the one day of the year I don’t think about one…
Continue Reading »
Op-Ed

World War II Ended Again Today

Just had a message from Germany saying an old friend died today, aged 85. His death marks another ending to the world’s greatest and most terrible war. He used to tell a terrific story about the comic horror of his own brief wartime experience. His story says a lot about the terrifying question that war asks each of us. I want to tell it to you. Nearly at the war’s end, his entire school class of fourteen-year old boys was hauled before a visiting Wehrmacht recruiting officer to be drafted into the Hitler Youth. They were to be armed and…
Continue Reading »

Today is June 6 and So What?

It’s June 6 and no one’s noticed. I see nothing about the date in newspapers or on TV or the net. Seventy-one years ago this day marked the beginning of the end of the colossal world war against fascism and imperialism, the Second World War. We Americans fought in that war beside Allies who, like us, knew that to lose the war was to lose everything we had and maybe everything we hoped for ourselves. We fought for our lives against two gigantic evils, fascism in Europe and imperialism in the Pacific. Against enemies who were better prepared for war,…
Continue Reading »
Op-Ed

The Vanishing War

I've heard it said that every war fades from memory until a soldier is left with just a few highlights to recall, and those strangely happy.  I think, instead, it's the souvenirs we lose that make a war vanish.  Until the only remaining physical marker of a war is you and me.  Then we die and take war's memory with us, and what ought to be remembered and told to others vanishes with us. We, you and I, ought to do better than that. The first souvenir I lost after coming home from Vietnam was a 20 piastre piece.  You…
Continue Reading »
Op-Ed

Counting the Dead, Again

The Battle of the Bulge ended 69 years ago yesterday and I had a buddy in the movie made 20 years after the battle.  Great battle, great film.  True, he only had a bit part, but that included one line up there on that big Cinerama screen, just him and one of the movie’s stars.  A couple of years later, he and I were in Vietnam doing pretty much what he had playacted in the movie – trying to keep alive.  But what is keeping alive? The battle’s anniversary made me turn to some casual reading in an outdated copy…
Continue Reading »

Military Trivia and Its Hard Meaning

An email chain making the rounds of my office:  -----Original Message----- From: X Sent: Friday, February 27, 2014 To: ALL Subject: Trivia This trivia question is tailor-made for W.  Not because his gray hair says he could have been there but because he reads military history at lunch – What was the Allied military offensive in World War II whimsically codenamed “Chattanooga Choo Choo?”  I have no idea. -----Original Message----- From: W Sent: Friday, February 27, 2014 To: X Subject: RE: Trivia Never heard of it so looked it up (but no spoilers).  Being the resident stuffy BOVV (Bitter Old…
Continue Reading »

Private Holidays – V-J Day

Everyone has some private holidays - besides commemorations such as the birth of a child or the wedding day - that may mean a lot or a little to the outside world but which are very special to that one person.  V-J Day is one of my private holidays but it didn't start out that way.  Now, with its commemoration just past, I'd like to tell you how it became special to me. I'm a baby boomer and admit that V-J Day - Victory over Japan, September 2, 1945 - meant little to me growing up.  Oh, I relished the…
Continue Reading »
Op-Ed

The Last Vietnam Veteran Remembers…

The last uniformed veteran of World War I, a British woman, died this month. The last combat veteran, a British sailor, died last year in Australia. The last American veteran, an ambulance driver, died last year as well. All three reached age 110. She worked in a Royal Air Force canteen in England and remembered her war as a “good time,” filled with handsome pilots and excitement. The sailor, whose Royal Navy battleship fought a zeppelin, recalled his war as “tough.” What will the last Vietnam veterans remember at age 110, with great-grandchildren bouncing on their knees and asking for…
Continue Reading »

The Clowns of War

I never saw Bob Hope in the combat zone, never heard his zippy one-liners and never gawked at his starlets and beauty queens in hotpants and skimpy blouses.  He never came to my corner of the boonies.  But we had comedy enough of our own, though it may seem a little crazy to some.  But war is crazy, isn’t it? * * * The hero of my favorite comic story is Lt. Alfa Bravo – that’s what I’ll call him – who misread an azimuth by 180 degrees and fired six howitzers east, instead of west.  Blew up the basecamp…
Continue Reading »
Op-Ed

Too Many Heroes

I don’t understand how we could have so many heroes today. I knew a hero in the Vietnam war.  He died rescuing wounded.  I knew another in the first Gulf War.  She was killed by friendly fire.  But, today, every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who returns from a combat zone is called a hero.  I don’t quite understand that. Audie Murphy was a hero, no question.  Ernest E. Evans of the destroyer USS Johnston attacking a Japanese battle fleet was a hero.  Chuck Yeager was a hero.  So was John Basilone on Guadalcanal.  It’s great to think but hard…
Continue Reading »
Op-Ed

The Warrior’s Task

I had a buddy in the Vietnam war who was a different kind of fighting man.  He didn’t carry a gun.  He was a civilian warrior for hearts and minds.  But he taught me the most important part of the combat soldier’s task.  I want to tell you about his one very special combat. I’m going to call him “Bob.”  His mission was the aid and humanitarian work that kept children and their families alive in the crossfire of war.  As you would expect, he was a misery to the Viet Cong.  His work threatened to blow up their lies…
Continue Reading »

Does Raquel Welch Still Love Me? *

My Vietnam war ended 44 years ago.  I have gray hair at one end and flat feet at the other, and perhaps you do, too!  But I don’t feel that old.  Still 19 inside.  Still marching off to see what battle is all about and if I’ve the courage to face it. Today’s young soldiers look at me, bemused, expecting to see the fires banked.  A war they see as way back there in the Stone Age is nothing to be upset about this century.  They don’t understand that my war can never end.  Theirs may not, either. There were…
Continue Reading »