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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014

I’m not a particularly reflective kind of person.

I’m the kind of guy more interested in tomorrow than yesterday and I don’t spend a hell of a lot of time dwelling on the past.

For me, as someone who spent most of my adult life in the uniform of my country, every day is a day to remember those I served with.

Every day is a day to remember those who trained me and led me, to remember those I served alongside of, to remember those I trained and led myself. Those men and women – the good and the bad, the faithful and the faithless, the leaders and the followers, the admirable and the shitheads, those who came before me and those who came after, those that still live and serve and fight, those who like me who have hung up their swords, and those who have given the last full measure – I remember them, each and every single one, each and every single day. 

They are always with me, because they are the people who made me what I am.

If you’re an American, you owe your freedom to those who risked all in your name.

You don’t need to kiss our asses, you’re not required to shed tears, you don’t need to hunt down a veteran and prostrate yourself.

 

Veterans Day is not a wake. It’s simply a day to remember.

 

We are not heroes, most of us anyway, we are simply people like any other, doing the best we can with what we have under difficult circumstance. We came when called and did our duty for our own reasons. You don’t have to understand why, just as you may not understand why a fireman would run into a burning building instead in the other direction.  And that’s okay.

In our country, in a free society, the soldier should be no more revered than any other citizen.

We should respect the warrior, those who are worthy of that respect, but we should never worship them. For there is no glory in war. It is a horrible, brutal business and make no mistake about it. We can wish it otherwise. We can rail against the utter stupidity and the phenomenal waste and the bloody obscenity of it all. We can declare and decry war’s terrible necessity and its terrible cost. Be that as it may, given human nature, for now war must often be done and our nation, our world, needs those who would fight. But it is a duty, a profession, a job that must be done, not some glorious spectacle.  

Perhaps in some distant future we will have put it behind us, perhaps we will have made war and the warrior long obsolete.  We can certainly hope that it shall be so. We can, and should, strive to make it so.

Perhaps some day we will set aside a day to honor the peacemakers and study war no more. Perhaps.

But I wouldn’t count on it.

Until then, on this day, do take a moment to remember the warriors. 

We set aside today in order to acknowledge those who did their duty to the best of their ability. Raise a glass and honor those who served their country in peace and in conflict, those who came when called – both those who came against their will and those who came of their own volition – all of those who came to stand between home and war’s desolation.

This is their day.

Honor them and then, and then, go on about your lives.

Live.

Be free, revel in it – because that, ultimately, is why they do what they do.

 

To all of my brothers and sisters in arms, those of you who wore the uniform, those of you who have stood the long watch, those of you who walked point into hell, and those of you who are even now out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, my message to you remains ever the same:

Respect is earned, each and every day, by every word, by every action. Respect cannot be bought. Respect cannot be bargained for. Respect can be lost with a single thoughtless deed, with a single careless gesture, by a single failure to act.

Men and women will lay down their lives at your command, but they won’t do it for freedom or democracy or other such ideals, they won’t do it because you’re bigger or tougher or because you’re the meanest son of bitch who ever lived or because you’re smarter or better educated or because they love you or even because they hate and fear you.

They will only do it because they respect you.

Respect is why Americans remember you today – or not.

Your honor does not depend on the honor of others. Your self-respect does not depend on the worthiness of others.  You have sworn an oath, you word is good or it is not – there is no middle ground, there are no half measures, either you keep your word, all of it, not just the easy parts, all of it, or you don’t.

Honor, duty, respect, these things are the only authority you have, guard them well.

You are the first bulwark against the night. 

You are more than a simple Soldier, a Sailor, a Marine, an Airman, or a Guardsman, you are the very symbol of this nation and its people – for good or for bad.

When you put on that uniform, you are the United States of America, you represent us all. Never forget that, not for one single moment.

Hold your head high and your back straight, be proud of who you are and what you represent, hold your honor dear, be always true to your oath. 

Stand steadfast by your duty even when there is no one to see.

Follow those who lead and lead those who will follow.

Leave no one behind.

And remember the fallen. Always.

Thank you for your service on this day and every other. Here’s to you, you magnificent bastards, one and all, here’s to us and all that we shared.

//Chief Warrant Officer Jim Wright, United States Navy (Retired).

35 comments:

  1. Thank you.


    MrsGunka

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  2. Listening at this moment to a Iraq War vet describing the years of agony for him suffering PTSD since his one year and a day in country. Years of paranoia, sleeplessness, self-imposed isolation.

    Over 250,000 vets have been diagnosed with PTSD, and that's only the vets who've been DIAGNOSED, imagine how many more are homeless and undiagnosed, are dead from suicide but not diagnosed, have erupted in rage and killed others, undiagnosed, are members of our cities and states' law enforcement and are undiagnosed...

    I'm not kidding about that last one. Could the seemingly increasing examples of police brutality and anger towards civilians we've seen in the last few years be an overt sign of underlying issues of ex-veterans who've become cops despite their war service, or perhaps because of their war service?

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    1. I think that is probably a factor, yes.

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  3. I raise a glass to all who have worn a military uniform. Thank you.

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  4. Indeed. Thank You, again. And Thank You, again.

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  5. Thanks for making me remember, Chief Warrant Officer.

    -Paul Cooper, former QM3(SS)

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  6. Thanks for your service, as a fellow vet I can't think of better words to express my thoughts.

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  7. JUST A COMMON SOLDIER
    (A SOLDIER DIED TODAY)

    He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
    And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past.
    Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
    In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one.
    And tho’ sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
    All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke.
    But we’ll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
    And the world’s a little poorer, for a soldier died today.
    He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
    For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life.
    Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
    And the world won’t note his passing, though a soldier died today.
    When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
    While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
    Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
    But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung.
    Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
    A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
    Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
    Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?
    A politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives
    Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
    While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
    Is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension small.
    It’s so easy to forget them for it was so long ago,
    That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
    It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys
    Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys.
    Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
    Would you want a politician, with his ever-shifting stand?
    Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
    His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?
    He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
    But his presence should remind us that we may need his like again.
    For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier’s part
    Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
    If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
    Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.
    Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
    Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

    By A. Lawrence Vaincourt

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  8. Awesome as always Jim. As one veteran to another, I'll hoist a beer to your honor today.

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  9. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredNovember 11, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    A salute to you, sir. Thank you and ditto.

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  10. <3 's to all, and the families of all, who have served. Thank you.

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  11. Last Friday 200 of us swore that same oath. We are now Americorps VISTA, in National Service. The 50th anniversary is coming up. I was watching LBJ sign the paper on the black-and-white Zenith, Volunteers In Service To America, and my 13-year-old self decided then and there to do this. It sure took me long enough...

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  12. As always, powerful writing.

    (Obligatory proofreader note:
    why a fireman would run into a burning building instead in the other direction
    should be "instead ofin the other direction."

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  13. Nicely said, Mr. Wright. -- CW2 Torgersen

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  14. R.A. Heinlein applauds from Beyond the Sunset. Well said. - W. Krumholz

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  15. i'm not sure it has EVER been said better. thank you, jim, for your service, your spirit, and your efforts. my grandfather, my father, and both of my sons have all served this country under various, different, and trying circumstances to say the least. i am so proud of them all. and thank you again for all you do.

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  16. Thanks all vets. You are an inspiration. Please accept my best wishes and condolences for comrades lost.

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  17. Thank you Jim. Great stuff. J.C. Pope, CDR, CEC, USN.

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  18. Thanks Jim, to my 2 best friends who I served with.....Ed O'Brian and Ray Cork who were killed in action Dec.4 1967, I miss you and salute you. Carry on sailors and Anchors Aweigh

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  19. You may have hung up your sword Jim but you are still serving your country through your writing. You are the first bulwark against bullshit and I thank you for your service - past, present, and future.

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  20. I'm replying under anonymous only because I'm afraid to put my real name and jeopardize my ex husbands current position in the Marine Corps. So here it goes... I am a former military wife who was married to a Marine who was sent to Iraq 6 times. I married him after he had been deployed 5 times so I only had to endure 1 Iraq deployment. The man who came home to me and my children was not the man we proudly sent over there, and that's putting it mildly! I won't get into the whole heartbreaking story but aside from the night terrors, no sex, constant drinking, sudden outbursts, inability to just relax or sit still, constant need to remind everyone he encountered that he "faught for this piece of shit country", deadly high blood pressure, constantly saying "I wish I would have just fucking died over there" every day to myself, his children, his parents and even his fellow Marines and CO's, he was never given any help for his obvious PTSD! He would go into work and rage and destroy things so bad he would even get grounded ( he is a crew chief on the V-22 Osprey) and nobody from his unit would call or stop by and check on me and the kids and we were living in constant fear of him killing us or finding him with his head blown off! Still nobody from the Marine Corps came by our home or called to see if we were ok even after his father called his command and told them how fucked up his son had become! I finally had enough and had to take the kids and leave him when he put a loaded .45 (1 in the chamber,full clip and no safety ) in my face as our daughter hid behind me in absolute terror and our son heard that distinct sound of "locked and loaded" he shut and locked his bedroom door and proceeded to bail out his bedroom window to run down the street to get 1 of 20 other Marines living on our street to help us, guess who came by to check on us afterwards? NOBODY!!! My son had also had the presence of mind to grab his cell phone and call 911 (we lived off base) and tell the city police his dad pulled a gun on his mom and sister, they never showed up!! Why? Because when my ex found out he called 911 back and told them not to come because everything was ok and his boy just over reacted to mommy and daddy having a little spat! They never came or even asked to speak with me! This whole gun to my face was all because he felt me and my daughter were not listening to his side of a story enough! I know I said I wouldn't get into my whole heartbreaking story and I apologize for how much of it I did say, but once I started typing it just came pouring out, this is the first time I've told it outside of immediate family and I've left a lot more out! The whole point to this long post is to bring attention to the out and out lies the military and government spew about honoring,supporting and helping our men and women when they come home from war! They make it impossible for them to get the help they need and to continue to serve at the same time. My husband was pretty much told that if he had any PTSD symptoms to report he could kiss his rank and 16 years of service good fucking bye! Please don't get me wrong, I do support and respect our military and am very thankful to the men and women who faught beside my husband and saved his life and he theirs, but my husband and many others husbands and wives, are coming home all fucked up and it's destroying the military families. I stayed with my ex as long as I could because I wasn't going to abandon him like his beloved Marine Corps did and I felt if I just kept taking the beatings and fear that eventually he would get it all out and be OK again but it actually came down to him or us and I had to do what was safest for the kids and get us the fuck out! He's still in and has about 2 years til his 20 so he can retire but he has still not gotten any help and is just a miserable, lonely, and mean son of a bitch that it breaks my heart. Military spouses and children need a big thank you too!

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    1. Anonymous 3:50, I am greatly disturbed by your story of 911 not coming when your husband called back and told them not to come. One of my sons is a 911 dispatcher in Fayette-nam, NC. Their protocol, when there is a husband call-back to cancel, is to send officers anyway. To them that is a sure sign of trouble that needs a follow-up. It is extremely rare that there been a legitimate case of cancellation.

      I have no knowledge of protocol in other jurisdictions of husband call-back cancellations. I would like to think it is across-the-board standard procedure everywhere to send officers anyway but I am realistic enough to know that cash-strapped units may not be so quick to follow through.

      Another son, a Marine, served in "Mission Accomplished" Iraq in a place of relative safety so we have been spared PTSD. For a while I suffered survivors guilt that that is so. My heart goes out to you and your family, and especially your Marine, for the suffering you have all endured and will continue to endure in varying degrees, likely the rest of your lives.

      To the Spawns of Satan who instigated this misbegotten war: Hell is not hot enough, nor is there a pit deep enough, nor is eternity long enough for you. May you all rot there.

      RAinNC

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  21. Thank you for your service. And thank you anonymous military wife for your patience and long-suffering. There are so many children of military in the "baby boom;" often I've thought that our "generation gap" which was far more pronounced than that of the next generation, was due to the PTSD of the WWII vets which was often unspoken. My father was not overseas, but led a group who made bombs more accurate, and their work allowed enough accuracy to destroy the V2 launch sites. The group worked 24 hours every day to do this, and pressure? If not done all cities in Europe would be destroyed. My dad spent the rest of his life on hobbies instead of conversations. I thank my father for his service, and know it was not easy. There was some danger for the group from U boats and spies, but his stress was the pressure of completing an engineering project. You can see a little exhibit of their work at the museum at Eglan Field in Florida, but the "math group" is not given any glory for their service, even though some men committed suicide under the pressure. My dad went on to work for RCA, and had several patents in magnetics for tape heads; his papers are still printed by the IEEE; John Bick. He died in 2013.

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  22. Don't know you but wish I did. It seems like yesterday but it was just over 30 years ago I was in basic. A blink of an eye and pow I have grey hair, bad knees and back. I remember all the people I served with some good some bad. All of them willing to give the last full measure to keep the barbarians away from the gate.

    Wish all of my fellow veterans wherever you are fair winds and following seas.

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  23. Marine Corps veteran here who proudly worked as a civilian with the Army Corps of Engineers, served as an Americorps VISTA and as a Wisconsin Conservation Corps crew leader. We leave military service but we continue to serve our nation.

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  24. Your writings are always apt, Warrant. Personally, I have a certain amount of trouble with Memorial Day and Veterans' Day. Sadness, respect for those who answered the call and perhaps paid the ultimate price. But since my service, frustration and anger at the fucking stupidity of it all, at the Government and Military that has the gall to ask such sacrifice in service to essentially nothing. Including the era of my service, only a few have actually "died for their country." The rest was, unfortunately, an obscene waste. If this seems inappropriate, Warrant, please feel free to delete without comment.

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  25. "...there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant."

    Smedley Butler said it best: War Is a Racket. We've been in a state of continuous war for 24 years. Who has that state helped most? Easy answer: the psychopaths who keep us in that state. Those who serve are to be honored. Those who instigate the wars should be hanged.

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  26. I'm lucky enough to still work with many of the people I served with. I spent Veteran's day with family and friends, and kept the TV off. It took me all day to smoke a pile of ribs, and we had a bbq in the evening. Our friends wished me a "Happy Veterans Day" and gave me a handshake or a hug. We ate, drank, listened to some music and even played a little ball with the neighborhood kids.

    Best Veteran's Day I've ever had...

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  27. If only the officials who decide which wars to fight had as much integrity as those destined to fight them - it would be a better world with fewer wars.

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  28. "In our country, in a free society, the soldier should be no more revered than any other citizen."

    Each and every Veterans day, the one thing that irritates me the most is to see many of my military friends who I served with and are conservative, wrap themselves in the uniform and say "Look at me!" Why do they feel the need to do this?

    If I raise this issue, I must hate America, our military, and the flag.

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  29. This is my first comment. An introduction, not on subject. I have read a few of your blogs now, and I am amazed at how much I agree with. I feel that, had I lived your life, I would think exactly as you do. A couple of things that you have written were almost identical to what I have written. Of course my life experience was much different than yours. Because we seem to think much the same, I feel that reading your blog will be highly enjoyable and will help me with my own writing, because of where we differ. It will make me look at some things a little closer. My writing mainly consists of commenting on thing I read. I am a slow thinker, so I find that I can write better than I can talk. I know that I will not agree with you on everything, because my knowledge base is much different. I also tend to play the devils advocate. I try to have original thought and not just regurgitate.
    Keep up the good work. I hope that you can make a difference.

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