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November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day 2005.

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You *really* want to honor a Vet? Then do this. Donate. Again, if you have already. So more scenes like this can happen.



It's a tax-deductible donation and eligible for matching funds from companies who do that sort of thing (see:http://soldiersangels.org/valour/irsinfo.html for proof for the cautious)

The snail mail address for those who'd rather donate that way (scroll down at:http://soldiersangels.org/valour/donate.html).

Bill got you ready yesterday, so I'll pick up the flag today.

Today we celebrate the living. The survivors. We honor the dead in May. Except today we honor the dead, too. We can't help it. The bonds of combat soldiery are tightest because of those who went with us but didn't come back, they took the low road while we took the high. Most of us have an "absent companion" or four that we drink to, when the time is right. Today it will be right. I have 14 that I will drink to. 14 little shots of tequila. Actually, I won't do it tonight when I get home, either. I spread 'em out between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. My father doesn't even try. If he toasted all his ghosts, his liver would rip itself out of his belly and run.

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We have bonds. Bonds that sometimes our closest family don't understand. Why does Grampa Joe keep bailing that wino out of trouble? Because that wino lost two fingers tossing a grenade out of a two-man fighting position during the a vicious night fight on Guadalcanal, that's why. Because that stranger that Dad greets like a long lost brother once a year is, in fact, a long lost brother, who shared the exhilaration of the night combat drop on Point Salines. Because the quiet guy you've never seen before extracted your Dad's best friend's body from a helicopter crash in Mogadishu by cutting off his legs - so that no man would be left behind. Because that guy over there negotiated with Aideed to get the legs back.

(To save space for Dial-up visitors, the remainder of this post has been moved to the Flash Traffic/Extended entry.)

Because that woman sitting at the table comforted many of your grandfather's friends as they lay dying, the last thing they ever saw, or heard. Because that janitor in your school spent a long night on LZ X-Ray, cut off from his unit, keeping his squadmates alive. Because that Bank President looking at ties over there drove an AMTRAC across the reef at Tarawa under a withering fire so your uncle wouldn't have to slog in on foot, fighting both the sea and the Japanese. That man in Lions with your great-uncle? Your uncle helped him walk out from the Frozen Chosin.

Because that man serving turkey at the shelter helped Uncle Bob deal with Esther's "Dear John" letter, that arrived right before "Big Push." And him, that guy playing with his grandkids, who always seems to have some candy for you... well, he's a Glow-worm, a fighter pilot who jumped from a burning aircraft after he lost that dogfight with the Bf-109, and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp - and survived the forced marches to the west, as the germans were falling back from the onslaught of the Red Army. His buddy? The wingman whose 'six' was being covered. We are also a maudlin, sentimental group. We honor ALL of our veterans. Especially the ones who didn't really volunteer, but would and did give their lives freely for their brothers in arms, too.

We have the bond of shared experiences, whether it's Basic, Jump School, the JRTC, Graf, Pahakuloa, Camp Red Cloud, Hof, Okinawa, Tay Ninh, Vung Tau, Suwon, Phenix City, El Paso, Biloxi, the convoys across the Atlantic, storming over a beach, busting bunkers, hunkering under artillery, rescuing families caught in the middle, finding that cask of cognac and... and the list goes on and on and on. And your newest veterans - they will have their traumas, too.

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I am proud my place among you, you men and women who simply did their duty. Who didn't run. Who came when asked. I am among giants. But my thoughts will be with the newest wave of veterans.

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051030-N-9885M-007 Tall Afar, Iraq (October 30, 2005) - Specialist Wendell Guillermo, 2nd Battalion 325th, 82nd Airborne Infantry Regiment, stands guard as the local Iraqi government hands out money to civilians in an effort to boost the Tall Afar economy. Iraqi Army Security Forces with assitance from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 82nd Airborne Infantry Regiment unit are providing security for the region of Tall Afar in order to disrupt insurgent safe havens and to clear weapons cache sights in the area of operation. Official U.S. Navy Photo by Photographer's Mate First Class Alan D. Monyelle

The Republic is well served. Well served indeed. And as long as we find men and women willing to do the hard, dirty work - there will be a Republic.

We have not fought most of our wars this last hundred years alone. And other nations, other armies, with whom we have much in common also honor the living and remember their dead. I have a significant Canadian readership. So, I honor our Canadian and Commonwealth brothers, who shed blood with us in Afghanistan, and sadly, a good chunk of it was shed by us... so it's only fitting.

Usually around Christmas you see the poems about the American soldier and his sacrifices. The Canadians have one too.

Who Is He

He is profane and irreverent, living as he does in a world full of capriciousness, frustration and disillusionment. He is perhaps the best-educated of his kind in history, but will rarely accord respect on the basis of mere degrees or titles.

He speaks his own dialect, often incomprehensible to the layman. He can be cold, cruel, even brutal and is frequently insensitive. Killing is his profession and he strives very hard to become even more skilled at it.

His model is the grey, muddy, hard-eyed slayer who took the untakeable at Vimy Ridge, endured the unendurable in the Scheldt and held the unholdable at Kapyong.

He is a superlative practical diplomat; his efforts have brought peace to countless countries around the world. He is capable of astonishing acts of kindness, warmth and generosity. He will give you his last sip of water on a parched day and his last food to a hungry child; he will give his very life for the society he loves. Danger and horror are his familiars and his sense of humour is accordingly sardonic. What the unknowing take as callousness is his defence against the unimaginable; he whistles through a career filled with graveyards.

His ethos is one of self-sacrifice and duty. He is sinfully proud of himself, of his unit and of his countryand he is unique in that his commitment to his society is Total. No other trade or profession dreams of demanding such of its members
and none could successfully try.

He loves his family dearly, sees them all too rarely and as often as not loses them to the demands of his profession. Loneliness is the price he accepts for the privilege of serving. He accounts discomfort as routine and the search for personal gain as beneath him; he has neither understanding of nor patience
for those motivated by self-interest, politics or money.

His loyalty can be absolute, but it must be purchased. Paradoxically, the only coin accepted for that payment is also loyalty. He devours life with big bites, knowing that each bite might be his last and his manners suffer thereby. He would rather die regretting the things he did than the ones he dared not try. He earns a good wage by most standards and, given the demands on him, is woefully underpaid.

He can be arrogant, thoughtless and conceited, but will spend himself, sacrifice everything for total strangers in places he cannot even pronounce. He considers political correctness a podium for self-righteous fools, but will die fighting for the rights of anyone he respects or pities.

He is a philosopher and a drudge, an assassin and a philanthropist, a servant and a leader, a disputer and a mediator, a Nobel Laureate peacekeeper and the Queen's Hitman, a brawler and a healer, best friend and worst enemy. He is a rock, a goat, a fool, a sage, a drunk, a provider, a cynic and a romantic dreamer. Above it all, he is a hero for our time.

You, pale stranger, sleep well at night only because he exists for you, the citizen who has never met him, has perhaps never thought of him and may even despise him. He is both your child and your guardian. His devotion to you is unwavering.

He is a Canadian Soldier.

Hell, he's any soldier of a true democracy. And he too is one of my brothers-in-arms.

In closing - there's this. Remember.

Take two minutes... it's a pittance of time.

A worthy cartoon. H/t, Barb of Righty in a Lefty State.
H/t to CAPT H for the Canadian input. A nod to Sheldon P (1 PPCLI) and Jim Cope (USA, ret'd) for the link to Remember.

Linked at Stop The ACLU Veteran's Day Open Trackbacks.

Denizens of Argghhh!:

Bad Cat Robot, Fuzzilicious Thinking, Righty in a Lefty State, The Middle Ground. My Side of the Puddle, GenX@40, Random Fate, The Gun Line, My Army Life

Other tributes:

Baldilocks, Basil’s Blog, Outside the Beltway, Dean’s World, Below the Beltway, L’Ombre de l’Olivier, Winds of Change, Michelle Malkin, Stuck on Stupid, The Political Teen, Generation Why?, The Jawa Report, Blackfive, Sgt. Stryker, Wunderkraut, La Shawn Barber, Overtaken by Events, Garfield Ridge, Conservative Thinking, The Military Outpost, The Uncooperative Blogger, Iraq War Today, The Bow Ramp

Canadian Remembrances.

Remembrance Day, In Memorium, Remembrance, It is the soldier, An Honoured Son, In Remembrance, Remembrance Day, Armistice Day - Belgium in WWI, Why we stop and remember The Great War, 11.11, A Matter of Valor, Lest We Forget, The Devil’s Brigade, Sappy post to follow, In Remembrance, I remember, Remembrance is not enough

H/t - Dust My Broom for the Canadian list (and his own post).

John | Permalink | Comments (17) | Something for the Soul
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