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November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day, 2006.

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 17 that I will drink to. 14 17 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. I have friends who will be making a trip to a military funeral this weekend (for #16, LTC Paul Finken).

I honor my two favorite veterans: SWWBO, and my Father. I honor my two favorite people who sweated out what their veterans were off doing: Mom and my sister.

I honor the veterans of my family, stretching back in America's wars to one of Roger's Rangers, even the ones who fought on the wrong side of the Civil War.

I will be in the Leavenworth Veteran's Day Parade today. The theme is Supporting America. I'll be on the Rotary Club float - with the Castle Vickers, made up as it is of British, Australian, and Canadian parts - and I'll be wearing the Aussie slouch hat given me by an Australian soldier I served with - because our theme is Rotary Honors All the Veterans, foreign and domestic, who have, in one way or another, Supported America.

So, as it's Remembrance Day elsewhere in the world - there's this Canadian song: Remember.

At 11:00AM, the parade will stop where it stands, Taps will be played, and we will observe two minutes of silence.

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

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We have bonds, we veterans. 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.

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.

I am proud of 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.

by Spc. Nathan Hoskins</p>

<p>November 8, 2006</p>

<p>Pvt. Michelle Young, Pvt. Zachary Smith and Spc. Courtney Brenton from 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, beautify Dining Facility 1 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Paintings like this one are found throughout the camp. This photo appeared on

by Spc. Nathan Hoskins November 8, 2006
Pvt. Michelle Young, Pvt. Zachary Smith and Spc. Courtney Brenton from 3rd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, beautify Dining Facility 1 at Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Paintings like this one are found throughout the camp. This photo appeared on

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.

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.

Comments on Veteran's Day, 2006.
Alan briefed on November 11, 2006 08:14 AM

Such good words. Thanks.

jim b briefed on November 11, 2006 10:54 AM

Thanks to all who served through the mud and the blood and the beer.

Thanks to all who serve. You do us all proud.

Justthisguy briefed on November 11, 2006 03:15 PM

Thanks, guys! Oh, and here's to "absent friends." I knew some guys like that too, not as comrades, but good friends, parent, uncles... (Spills a bit)

patty briefed on November 11, 2006 03:35 PM

Remembering Our Vets Today
God Bless our Vets
One and All
Have a great rest of the weekend

Andi briefed on November 11, 2006 05:33 PM

Today, I was at the ceremony at Arlington and there was an old Canadian veteran there. He had his poppy on his uniform and was wearing a very elaborate headress. He made his way around the crowd talking to the American veterans, and you could see the mutual respect between him and those he spoke with.

I took a photo of him, hope to have it up soon.

Happy Veteran's Day.

Anna briefed on November 11, 2006 05:58 PM

Thank you for your service, for your great tribute to other veterans and God bless you and your family!

og briefed on November 11, 2006 07:32 PM

Extraordinarily well put. Thank you.

Neffi briefed on November 11, 2006 08:00 PM

and a great Vet Day to all- mine started well and went south from there-
My sweetie and I attended the parade here in Longmont Colorado, me wearing a jacket with my 7th Cavalry and sergeant pins... about 1120 hrs I was suddenly accosted by a very drunk transient guy, in his late 20s I would guess. He blathered about murder of Indians and how I was a POS etc. I said nothing and we walked around him but then he grabbed my arm and spit on me- tried to spit on me, but really just dribbled on himself.
So now I'm charged with 'assault and battery' and the scumbag is in LUH with a broken jaw- I gotta go to court but when the officer responded to the incident he was positively *inundated* with citizens swearing I had only defended myself against an attack so I'm hoping the charges will be dropped.

JimC briefed on November 11, 2006 08:45 PM

Well, I wanted to say this back at 0915 local but the comments weren't working for some reason.

Your essay is superb and it is a honor to know you sir.

Barb briefed on November 11, 2006 09:20 PM

I had the awesome experience today of listening to four MOH recipients and one photographer talk at the local Museum of Flight. The photographer's book is Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty, and I was honored to shake the hands of all 5 men today. Living history - 2 of them were honored for their actions in WWII ... who knows how long these men of my father's generation will continue to be with us.
This counts as my best Veteran's Day ever.

Justthisguy briefed on November 11, 2006 09:21 PM

Dang, Neffi, that sucks. Glad you got a good lick in, no matter what else happens.

This new cyber-body really is very nice.

John of Argghhh! briefed on November 11, 2006 09:33 PM

Neffi - get a good lawyer, don't rely on luck. Your MP-40 is at stake, as well as any other firearms you have.

Justthisguy briefed on November 11, 2006 09:34 PM

P.S. ...and that the other guy got a good lickin'

Justthisguy briefed on November 11, 2006 09:43 PM

Brab, I've seen that book, and prolly read most of it standing up in the bookstore. It caused funny physiological reactions in me, like hairs standing up on back of neck, and wet eyes. I may just go back there and buy it.

Oh, what The Armorer said, just above. Lawyer up, man!

Maggie briefed on November 11, 2006 10:10 PM

Neffi - Sorry to hear about this, but I second John.....get a lawyer. You hear too many crazy stories about court battles to rely on anyone having common sense.

Barb briefed on November 11, 2006 10:51 PM

JTG - It's worth owning, even though it is a subset of the recipients. Their stories are wonderful to read, and the photos are great.

Neffi - First of all, sorry I missed your bit in my rush to blather. And sorry indeed to hear that you're facing such a situation. John's right, I think. It isn't about right and wrong in court, dude. I hope you'll get a good lawyer.

cw4(ret)billt briefed on November 11, 2006 11:44 PM

Neffi -- Three things:

1. Good on ya.

2. Get a savage lawyer -- one who'll make the dirtball *look* like a dirtball if this goes to trial.

3. Contact that cop tomorrow and make sure he got the names and addresses of those witnesses -- don't press him for the names, but make sure he took 'em. Six months from now is *not* the time to find out that all he got was last names and partial phone numbers...

Mike Daley briefed on November 12, 2006 12:40 AM

Just check out GCS Distributing's Tributes, especially "Make a Difference"

"We have become increasingly efficient at destruction and waging war. We have also become more efficient at saving the lives of those wounded in war. Many who receive serious injuries in battle would have died in previous wars but instead are surviving due to the outstanding efforts of military evacuation personnel, medics and doctors. As a result many of these survivors face a difficult road ahead burdened with life changing disabilities. Some of these disabilities so extreme that to regain any kind of quality of life is exhausting, excruciating, and extremely expensive. Most lose any source of income and where you would think the government would pick up the tab for these brave souls, the pittance they receive falls pretty short.

This presentation is dedicated to those and the families of those who gave up the life they knew, whether entirely or in part, for the rest of us. We asked them to stand for us. Now it is our turn to stand for them. Go to
and take up their cause! Donate!! "

FbL briefed on November 12, 2006 08:49 AM

Neffi, just saw your comment. How awful! I'm glad you got the upper hand with the jerk, but I hope everything else works out, too. Please keep us posted.

Harvey briefed on November 12, 2006 11:52 AM

I served in the Navy during the Cold War in the 80's and never lost a shipmate to a Russian attack.

I'd like to thank my Commander-in-Chiefs for bringing Ivan to his knees so that - these days - half the people currently serving have no idea why I would have worried about such a thing.

JR briefed on November 12, 2006 12:28 PM

Excellent essay John. I have highlighted it as my Blog of the Week.