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November 11, 2010


Thanks. Well said.

Lest we forget:

The Andrew Olmsted link above is from the side bar at on the right, one of many. I wasn't trying to chide anyone here, it's just that I had my memory prodded today by a chance remark. Sometimes we (I) overlook things that are in front our (my) face.

Something I posted a little while ago on Facebook:

Veteran's day.

It's not Memorial Day, I know. But.

Any of my friends would do me a favor by reading this last post of Andy Olmsted's, written to be published if he were killed, on this or any day.

I've been reminded of Andy a lot during my move, as I ran across old hand-written letters, the DENVER POST copy I kept that devoted half the front page to his death, and other sad reminders.

There are related links on the top right of that, and every, page of _Obsidian Wings_.


On each flight today, and at all the boardings, we were all asked to applaud currently serving military and veterans (and let them board and deboard first).

In my emotionally volatile way, now that I'm pausing to absorb, I'm having momentary weeping at missing Andy again.

I still can't delete him from my address book, nor the unfinished email in my Drafts file that I was in the middle of writing the morning he died.

(A few minutes later: okay, better now.)

I've stayed in contact -- though not in the past few months -- with Wes Olmsted, and I do plan to blog something about Andy again in the mid-term future, once I get organized here in Oakland.

Gentle reminder, Russell, to put your name at the top of your post.

Good thoughts all. Had dinner with a good friend last night. His dad and mine, now both gone, did their duty, and not behind the lines. In the final years, my dad was one of those old guys who should have quit driving but didn't and who drove too slow and made people honk angrily. My thinking is that most of those old folks who hold up traffic today held a lot more than traffic back in the day and we should be mindful of that everyday, not just Veterans' Day.

My dad, who died about a year, ago enlisted as soon as he was old enough and went tothe Philiipines. He was a medic and told me that his chief responsiblity was to dig holes to bury people. Most of the people they buried were prisoners of war.

My cousin went to Viet Nam and came back one of those stereotype angry vets who wouldn't speak to his own father for years and years and did a lot of illegal self medication.

My first husband registered with the draft and then refused induction. He had a student deferment but didn't think it was fair that anyone would be drafted for Veitnam, but especially not fair that some get drafted because they don't have the financial resources or family pull (yes, George, I'm looking at you!) to avoid it. So he removed his special privilege and challenged the draft. He won, BTW.

My sister's husband was in the National Guard until they threw him out for not exercising enough. I'm not sure why he signed up in the first place but I think it had something to do with his intense innterest in history and old weapons. In any event, during the Iraq war when they wre sending National Guard units over someone had the good sense to look at my brother-in-law and think: no, better not.

So that's it for my family's vets.

In spite of the facecious tone of this post, I remember Andy with a great deal of sorrow and respect.

My Dad had a war-critical job with GE in Chicago. Which would have kept him out of the draft . . . except the paperwork got lost. That's the only reason I'm here: the war brought him to San Francisco and my Mother. But he was one of the lucky ones: he got assigned to cryptography, and in his words "spent the War hitting beaches in the Pacific: Waikiki, Santa Monica, Johnson Island, San Francisco." But my favorite line was when some Major was giving him a hard time (he was a Captain at the time), and threatened to go to his superior. Dad said, "Fine -- that would be General Arnold. There's nobody between him and me." Needless to say, the Major did no such thing.

My father-in-law was in the Army before Pearl Harbor. (Near as I can tell, he desperately wanted to get away from the family flower business.) He spent most of the war in the 442nd, as they fought their way up Italy and across to Germany -- although to hear him tell it, he was doing vehicle maintenance and not actually in the thick of the fighting. I suppose we won't know until he passes, and we find out how many medals he won. Given how many those boys got, there are sure to be several.

I'm the first male in my family not to go into the service in generations. No war stories, though. Grandfathers just missed WWII and dad and uncles just missed Vietnam.

My wife's grandfather was in the Pacific in WWII. She has his medals. There are quite a few. I think he did something pretty heroic under fire and saved a bunch of guys lives. I never met him.

My aunt's second/current husband was in Vietnam, got malaria and still gets freaked out by fireworks and helicopters. Otherwise, he's a pretty jovial dude, which is good.

Thanks for defeating Hitler, Dad!

British Merchant Marine, baby. Taking a serious beating for the cause.

One grandfather Royal Navy - minesweeper in the Med - one British Merchant Marine, one grandmother worked in a fighter aircraft factory, both grandmothers survived the Blitz in London. My step-father, 8 years USAF during Vietnam, loading bombs; later, helicopter mechanic on the first Greenpeace expedition to Antarctica. Funny how that works.

Never talked to any of them about any of it. I have very mixed feelings about the modern military and nothing much to say on Veterans Day; I like Memorial Day in the UK, and the minute of silence, for its lack of celebration, but that is there and this is here.

See also the video of a PBS report that shows some of what a funeral at Fort Carson is like, embedded here.

Andy's was, at least, a solo. Not long after they starting having to do five, six, and more, soldiers in a single ceremony.

There are a string of posts I hope to do on veteran's issues, when time allows.

(No, I am not a veteran; yes, I have opinions on how our government can improve greatly on caring for them, and serving military, and not fail them as much as we do.)

My mother's older brother, Harry, served in France in the Army circa 1942 and more; he never spoke of it in my presence. My mother's older sister's husband, Rube, also served in tanks in Europe during the War. He never spoke of it in my presence.

My father turned 18 in 1945, and enlisted in the Navy in the first months, but by the time he was serving on a ship in the Pacific as a medical aide, the war had ended.

My father's father, an immigrant from Eastern Europe who largely spoke Yiddish, I understand, died in WWI, fighting for America. Until I lost all my possessions in the Nineties, I had a small artillery shell that my grandfather had had engraved with dates and the place of a battle he had served in the artillery with, which had been my father's (who died in 1987).

My mother's parents both died before I was born, and while my mother was a tiny child, who lived on the streets for quite some time in the Depression, before being taken in by a friend's parents, who let her live in their closet, and be their child servant, in a situation that, as described to me tersely by my mother on a few rare moments -- she generally refused to speak much about her childhood -- was close to Cinderella, but set in the slum tenements of the Lower East Side of NYC in the Thirties, with no prince.

It's no wonder she had little role model on how to be a mother. She did her best. And she fought the war at home.

In 1941, my teenage mother, a NYC Jew, hitchhiked with her friend through the South to visit my uncle Harry before he shipped out from basic.

They were the first Jews most Southerners they met had ever seen.

She was asked if they could look at her horns.

She, too, fought the war at home.

In 1979, I worked for most of a year, for SEA-VAC, the Seattle Veteran's Action Committee, a group of Vietnam Veterans dedicated to caring and providing services for vets: medical and psychiatric care, group sessions, and most of all, PTSD.

These sorts of things are why, frankly, I for quite some time wanted to fly to where a certain once and again commenter on this blog lived, and punch him repeatedly in the face when he would rant about how Hilzoy and I hate veterans, want them and other Americans dead, and the Taliban and al Qaeda to kill American troops and triumph.

(I'm not prone to violence, and in fact would derive no satisfaction from any physical attack; I've never spontaneously hit anyone in my life (other than perhaps under the age of 2), and I'll be surprised if I ever do; this is a metaphor for the rage I did feel.)

Thinking a particular war is a very bad idea doesn't make anyone unpatriotic.

(And that's as political as I'll get in this thread; I hope you'll forgive my emotional digression; I find I'm being particular labile today, which shouldn't surprise me, given the changes I'm making at present.)

The draft was abolished when I was a child, and I never enlisted. Closest I got to military service was doing yard work for a retired Army recruiter, a major who had been a rifleman in France, 1944. His house was filled with WWII memorabilia, and the war was never far from his conversation.

My father was always matter-of-fact about his Korean War service. He was in Air Force reconnaisance. His particular job on the night flights had been automated but not yet eliminated. So his biggest worry was having enough comic books to read while aloft. Presently he asked for and received a transfer to the photography lab.

Most of my uncles fought in WWII. One had enlisted in the National Guard because of hard times in the depression. His unit was called up after Pearl Harbor, and he fought across North Africa and Europe til VE Day. In 1995, I visited another uncle who had served in the Italian campaign. I asked if he was paying attention to all the 50th anniversary commemorations. He shook his head no. "I saw all the war I want to see, and I don't want to see it no more," he said, his voice trembling with more than just advanced age.

I like Memorial Day in the UK, and the minute of silence, for its lack of celebration, but that is there and this is here.


My father is often amazed about the... I dunno, bragging, I guess? The chest-thumping.

I mean, he could brag if he wanted. The man had two ships torpedoed out from under him. He was at... Sword, I think, by D+1, being dive-bombed by Stukas (with Tank ammo onboard). But no. He makes light of his ordeals (while always mocking the Hollywoodization of war - "War is men screaming as they die").

He's got this Marine friend who is always going on about how great the Marines are. He just shakes his head.

Of course, this is a guy who thinks "Oh, what a lovely war" is a fabulous film.

Of course, this is a guy who thinks "Oh, what a lovely war" is a fabulous film.
It's definitely unique (as is the story how it was made).
A view from the other side. Both my parents were born during the war. I never knew my grandfathers. My maternal grandfather was in the Kriegsmarine in the Med (not in the Uboats), that's all I know. I have no idea about my paternal grandfather at all. My mother's sister's husband was in the Bundeswehr (something intelligence related).
As West Berlinians the draft was no question until the Cold War ended. After that my brothers were beyond drafting age and I went conscientious objector and used my degree in chemistry to get a position in a hospital lab for my compulsory community service (Zivildienst).
Btw, in Germany on 11/11 1111 hours the carnival season begins ;-)


[...] My father-in-law was in the Army before Pearl Harbor. (Near as I can tell, he desperately wanted to get away from the family flower business.) He spent most of the war in the 442nd, as they fought their way up Italy and across to Germany -- although to hear him tell it, he was doing vehicle maintenance and not actually in the thick of the fighting. I suppose we won't know until he passes, and we find out how many medals he won. Given how many those boys got, there are sure to be several.
For the sake of anyone unaware, Eventually, the 442nd RCT consisted of the 2nd, 3rd, and 100th Battalions; the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion; the 232nd Engineering Company; the 206th Army Band; Anti- Tank Company; Cannon Company; and Service Company:
[...] Due to their outstanding bravery and the heavy combat duty they faced, the 100/442nd RCT became the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service. There were over 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, 9,500 Purple Hearts, and seven Presidential Distinguished Unit Citations.


Decorations - 100th Infantry Battalion and The 442nd RCT
8 Major campaigns in Europe
7 Presidential Unit Citations
9,486 Casualties (Purple Hearts)
18,143 Individual decorations including:
20 Congressional Medals of Honor
52 Distinguished Service Crosses
1 Distinguished Service Medal
560 Silver Stars, with 28 Oak Leaf Clusters in lieu of second
Silver Star Awards
22 Legion of Merit Medals
4,000 Bronze Stars
1,200 Oak Leaf Clusters representing second
Bronze Stars
15 Soldier's Medals
12 French Croix de Guerre with two Palms representing second awards
2 Italian Crosses for Military Merit
2 Italian Medals for Military Valor

Thanks for your dad's service, wj.

Rob in CT:

[...] British Merchant Marine, baby. Taking a serious beating for the cause.
Damn straight. I'm not going to look up exact stats, but the amount of British tonnage sunk by the Germans and Japanese, particularly the Germans in the Atlantic, was horrific.

"Tonnage" being a nice way of avoiding saying how many human beings died with each ton.


[...] I like Memorial Day in the UK, and the minute of silence, for its lack of celebration
I think most highly of the poppy tradition.

And technically speaking, yesterday was Veteran's Day here, not Memorial Day, and theoretically the idea is we honor living veterans on Veteran's Day, and the dead on Memorial Day, but naturally, everyone deserves honoring, for whatever reason, in whatever good cause and act, deserves honoring every day.

If anyone is interested:

[...] In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"

The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Except, then, being Americans, we screwed it all up by wanting it to be a nice three day weekend, and then smacking ourselves in the head when we, for once, noticed we'd done something assholish:
[...] The Uniform Holiday Bill (Public Law 90-363 (82 Stat. 250)) was signed on June 28, 1968, and was intended to ensure three-day weekends for Federal employees by celebrating four national holidays on Mondays: Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day. It was thought that these extended weekends would encourage travel, recreational and cultural activities and stimulate greater industrial and commercial production. Many states did not agree with this decision and continued to celebrate the holidays on their original dates.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion on October 25, 1971. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of our citizens, and so on September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11, beginning in 1978. This action supported the desires of the overwhelming majority of state legislatures, all major veterans service organizations and the American people.

Veterans Day continues to be observed on November 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls. The restoration of the observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Jacob, previously:
[...] I have very mixed feelings about the modern military [....]
What I have are strong opinions about the militarization of our government in many ways, the choices our political leaders have made in using our military in some situations, and mixed feelings about the way that honoring those who serve in the military can, in some cases, slide into fetishization of military service as implicitly the only noble form of national service.

But those, and all the specific issues of military policy, that I have opinions about, are separate from my opinions about either any given individual serving in the military, or my due and proportional respect for those willing to put their lives at risk with nothing more than faith that their country has made the right decision to risk them.

That I believe that at times our country has betrayed that faith is, again, another issue.

There's really quite a lot more to be said about this, but I'd prefer to do it, and feel it would be more approriate to do that, in another thread than one specifically devoted to Veteran's Day.

On a more personal note, I've always been completely aware of the privilege of the age I was born in, in which I was just too young to be in danger of the Vietnam draft; the draft ended in America in 1973, when I was still 14, going on 15. Draft registration restarted in 1980 by that well-known pacifist, Jimmy Carter, directly responding to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, if you like what now might have a glint of historical irony.

And here's how narrow the window was for me:

[...] In March 1973, 1974, and 1975 the Selective Service assigned draft priority numbers for all men born in 1954, 1955, and 1956, in case the draft was extended, but it never was.[47]
[edit] Post-1980 draft registration

In 1980, Congress re-instated the requirement that young men register with the Selective Service System. At that time it was required that all males, born on or after January 1, 1960 register with the Selective Service System.

I was born November 5, 1958. Were I born a year and two months later, I would have had to register for the draft. Had I been born two years earlier, I still would have been required to register.

But I was in that three year window of no draft registration at all.

Volunteering for the military when I was young enough might have been good for me in teaching me self-discipline that I've always had trouble with. On the other hand, I've tended to not get along well with authority, bureaucracies, and rules, so I might also have been a disaster. I'll never know, now, as at 52, I doubt I'll be enlisting, or asked to.

"But I was in that three year window of no draft registration at all."

Sorry: two year window. 1957- December 31st, 1958.

I'm the same age my dad was when he retired from the "streamlined wind corps" as he called it. He was in the Air Force before it was the Air Force. He used to say he put in 30 years and 6 months- I almost made a career of it he'd say.
He went ashore in North Africa, then again at Anzio. He never got shot at. He was in Bomb Disposal- I still have a picture of him astride a large German bomb with a 2 lb sledge in his hand. Attempted suicide? No. This bomb was booby trapped in such a way you couldn't disarm it, but the timing mechanism was just under the skin. As long as you got to it and acted before it went off, you could smash the timer with a hammer.
While I was in college, we took a trip to Italy( mom was from Rome). I got my dad to go with me on a day trip to the American cemetery at Anzio. He didn't really want to go. Dad, my girlfriend (he didn't like her much)went. As we walked among the grave markers dad went off by himself. I went to get him so we could leave; he was on his knees crying. I walked away shocked. I had never seen my father cry and, I never did again. I could not understand why such sorrow after so many. Turns out there were only 2 survivors from his detachment. The rest are there at Anzio.
Now it's 40 years later. On Veterans Day (dad always called it Armistice Day). I spend the day by myself in my Man Cave. This year I watched movies like The Medal and The Story of Arlington. I remember guys I knew and some I still associate with. Dan got back last week from 6 months with Task Force Oden flying C-12s, DJ has had 3 tours 2 in Iraq one in Afghanistan, nephews John and Michael, a Navy Corpsman and a Marine respectively. Michael started out with 2 years in the Peace Corps the Marines go figure. John was my dads namesake, he did 3or 4 tours. On his first tour I gave him dads WWII dog tags. Since they had the same name I thought they would bring him luck. They did, after all those tour with Marines he retired without a scratch. I'm saving my tags for my grandson with my name.
Now I know how my dad felt. I lock myself away in my Cave alone. The kids shouldn't see grandpa cry.
I'm sorry to take so much of your time. But, I just want to leave you with a request. Look up the names of some Vets ( Lord knows there are enough casualty lists on line). Just so they will have been remembered. Let me suggest 2. First, Rick Rescorla; you have seen his picture on the cover of the book We Were Soldiers Once and Young. He wasn't even an American at the time. He died many years later on 9/11. Second, Jack P.(Sandbag)Smith, he was the son of Howard K. Smith. Find out how he came to be known as Sandbag. Read both of the articles www.misholov.com/death_ia_drang_valley_html.

It still might be a good idea to identify who wrote this post, Russell, by putting your name at the top.


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