November 12th, 2007

My Kind of Veteran

photo credit: TerriR

This is my kind of veteran:

I was at some gathering not long ago where they asked all the veterans to come forward and be acknowledged. My wife and kids urged me to go forward but I would not. I am not proud of travelling 10,000 miles from my home at the age of 19 to help kill people I didn’t know and with whom I had no argument for a cause I didn’t understand. The older I get and the closer to my day of reckoning the more I think of my foreign adventure as a reason for repentance than for pride. (via)

On a day when people claim to “honor” our troops, it’s refreshing to see at least one person who recognizes the great travesty war really is. It isn’t something to be celebrated or perpetuated, it’s something to be solemnly remembered and learned from.

But I fear that we haven’t learned anything from decades and centuries of war. Instead, we throw parades and glorify destruction.

20 Responses to “My Kind of Veteran”

  1. Curtis
    November 13, 2007 at 9:11 am #

    Howard Zinn is one of my favorite veterans:

  2. John
    November 13, 2007 at 9:43 am #

    It’s called Veteran’s Day, not War Day. We can honor them without honoring war. While there are those soldiers who take advantage of the situation, I think they’re probably the exception to the rule. I think a good soldier engaged in a bad cause can make the best of the situation.

    I think it’s an exaggeration to say that we glorify destruction today – it’s really quite the contrary for most. It’s the day that we mourn the destruction more than any other day of the year.

    Many of these great men don’t get to pick the agenda. I don’t think we need to cast a dark light on an already dark day.



  3. David
    November 13, 2007 at 1:17 pm #

    There are some wars where there should be no question of whether to honor the veterans. WWII was clearly a necessary fight, Korea, and Vietnam I’m not convinced, Iraq – the veterans might deserve to be honored but the war should not have been waged.

  4. Doug Bayless
    November 13, 2007 at 1:49 pm #

    Although I have great empathy for that particular veteran wrestling with his conscience, I would disagree with his conclusions. I am *adamantly* against our misguided and tragic actions in the Middle East right now, but I would strongly honor that young man for sacrificing as he did – as I try to honor each person that serves today.

    A somewhat paradoxical (‘conundrumical’) tradition that we inherit from the scriptures and current Prophets is the encouragement to honor family and country despite the known fact that heads of families and states might not lead righteously. I think what is tragic was the leadership of the state and military at the time that young man served, but given that he did *not* know he was being misguided I would say his service was still brave and honorable.

    But although I wish he would unshoulder misplaced burdens of guilt, I do agree with you that this veteran should truly be commended for trying to deal with brutal truth instead of blind defensive denial. I certainly know enough grown men for whom a real part of the reason they don’t want to deal with the complications of our current [imho] misguided foreign policy is that it parallels too directly to unresolved baggage about their own previous service in other foreign conflicts.

  5. Connor
    November 13, 2007 at 2:00 pm #

    …but given that he did *not* know he was being misguided I would say his service was still brave and honorable.

    This sentiment is in harmony with this First Presidency message:

    [God] will not hold the innocent instrumentalities of the war, our brethren in arms, responsible for the conflict.

  6. Josh Kim
    November 13, 2007 at 2:29 pm #

    as an Iraq Veteran myself, I was discouraged to learn that South Boston denied a request by an anti-war Iraq veterans group to march. Are we supposed to honor all veterans or just those who follow the Bush policy?

  7. rmwarnick
    November 13, 2007 at 3:13 pm #

    Frank W. Buckles, 106, is one of the very few surviving World War I veterans.

    “Sitting in a wheelchair with a military field cap on his head and a heavy blanket across his lap, Buckles recalled lying about his age to a Marine recruiter at a fair in Kansas to enlist when he was 16. On his arrival in France, he said, he was touched by the sight of so many people wearing black armbands in memory of loved ones who had already died.

    Asked what he thought about attending a service for his duty while the United States is engaged in armed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, Buckles replied: ‘I’m no authority, but I’m not in favor of war unless it’s an emergency.’ ”

  8. Kaela
    November 13, 2007 at 4:43 pm #

    I echo the sentiments of other posts. Veterans Day (and Memorial Day?) are about honoring those willing to serve our country. It’s about their service and their sacrifice. Not about whether the purpose of the war was just. We shouldn’t honor veterans based on the war(s) or capacity they served, but honor ALL veterans alike. Even if the war they fought in was unnecessary, or the cause unjust, they are not the ones making those decisions.

  9. Jay
    November 13, 2007 at 5:44 pm #

    I have mixed emotions about it. For the most part, the US has been involved in wars that were either immoral, illegal, or both. There are very few wars that I personally feel were justified. I honor those who fought in the Revolutionary War, for instance. I have great sympathy for those who fought against the aggressive Northern States in the misnamed “Civil War”. Theirs was a cause of protecting their lives, liberties, families and that which they believed in. It was a war of defense. I look at those who fought in the Vietnam War mostly as victims rather than heroes. I respect them, but to say that I honor them would be quite a stretch. I feel the same about the Gulf wars and others.

    Many who join the armed forces do it as a choice of career. That’s fine with me. But I personally don’t appreciate it when those who fight undeclared, immoral, illegal wars of aggression say that they are protecting my freedoms. And I don’t honor them. I respect them. I love them. But I don’t thank them for doing that which I disagree with in the first place. I don’t think they deserve a holiday in their honor any more than those who repair my cars, paint my house, bag my groceries or pave my streets. They are fulfilling the occupations of their choice. And for those who were wrongly put in harms way because of unrighteous conscription to fight senseless wars, they have my condolences. I feel sorry for them.

    My father fought in WWII. He hated it. He said it was hell. The only thing he liked about it was the day it ended. He was not proud of his service. He has never exhibited his uniform, medals or anything, has never shown me any pictures of him from the war. His memories of the war that he shares were the exotic moth collections that he acquired while in the Philippines which are on display in museums around the country. Except for one small moment that I can remember, he has never told the families stories about it. I can only remember one single story my dad has ever told about the war and that was when a kamikaze pilot was shot down as he nose-dived towards the battle ship that my father was on. He is 90 years old and the first time I ever saw any sort of recognition of him was at his 90th birthday when a VFW serviceman honored him at his birthday party. I do remember one other thing that my father said about the war—he often expressed his thankfulness that he never had to shoot anyone.

    Vetran’s Day fills me with thankfulness for those who fought in defense of our country and cry in sadness for those who fought otherwise. But war is not always war and heroes are not always heroes.


  10. Sam Hennis
    November 13, 2007 at 7:49 pm #

    But I personally don’t appreciate it when those who fight undeclared, immoral, illegal wars of aggression say that they are protecting my freedoms.

    My feelings are the same on that, Jay.

    I don’t believe the tripe that these foreign wars are for “defending my freedom.”

  11. Bishop Rick
    November 14, 2007 at 1:02 pm #

    When it comes to honoring veterans I dont think you can “cherry pick.” Had it not been for the WWII vets we would now be speaking German in this country. You would have no freedoms. Feel free to bash any and all politicians but we owe vets for keeping this great nation free.

  12. Jay
    November 14, 2007 at 2:47 pm #

    But I can and do cherry pick. There are vets who have fought for my freedoms and there are vets who have not. There are vets who have chosen their occupations and there are vets who were unrighteously and even unlawfully bound to service for wars that were illegal to start with. I don’t honor all of them equally, and I don’t honor some of them at all. It isn’t always about freedom . . . in fact, as far as American history goes, it mostly hasn’t been about freedom. It’s more about Imperialism.

    I’m unconvinced that WWII was justified. Considering what I believe to be FDR’s role in engineering Pearl Harbor, call me a skeptic about our entry into that war.

    “Had it not been for the WWII vets we would now be speaking German in this country.”

    I’m not so sure about that, either. We didn’t win the Vietnam War and nobody I know is speaking Vietnamese.


  13. Greg
    November 14, 2007 at 6:53 pm #

    Wow Jay. We are the beneficiaries of hindsight, but what I’m hearing you say is that:
    -We are better off as a nation for the Revolutionary War
    -We are worse off as a nation for fighting the “Civil War”
    -We are worse off as a nation for fighting “WW2”
    -We are worse off as a nation for fighting Vietnam
    -Also worse off for the Gulf wars

    Feel free to share how we’d be better as a nation TODAY without any of those wars. I understand that a price was paid in life by each of those generations, but me question to you is about today and how we would be better off without those wars.

  14. Jay
    November 14, 2007 at 7:24 pm #

    The “Civil War” was a war of imperialism and as a result of it, the Constitution was shredded in a way never previously seen. We still pay today for the sins of Lincoln and his illegal, undeclared war on a foreign nation–the Confederate States of America. If you believe that the Constitution is divinely inspired, then you must accept that tyrants cannot be allowed to declare wars or trample upon the Constitution at a whim. Wars must be declared by congress. Our divinely inspired Constitution also includes a divine order to things.

    I never said that we were worse off for fighting WW2. I said I’m not convinced that it was justified. I believe strongly that FDR engineered Pearl Harbor in order to get us into that war and we would not have gotten entangled in it, otherwise. I have my doubts that we would have been under attack had it not been for FDR.

    President Benson said that the purpose of Vietnam was to further the cause of communism in southeast Asia. He also said that “we had no business being there.” What is good enough for a prophet of God is good enough for me.

    What did we accomplish with the also, undeclared, illegal Gulf Wars besided the loss of innocent life on both sides? Rather than me tell you that I think that unlawful wars are immoral, why don’t you explain to me what good came of them?


  15. Sam Hennis
    November 14, 2007 at 7:54 pm #

    Had it not been for the WWII vets we would now be speaking German in this country.

    I don’t believe that for a minute.

    Check out “The Creature from Jekyll Island,” by G. Edward Griffin. That’s a very enlightening book.

    Another good book, written by Brigadier General Smedley D. Butler, “War is a Racket” is a very worthwhile read. He shoots down the theory that we would all be speaking German had we not participated in WWII.

    Our military should be here to defend America, not spread throughout the world stationed/fighting in foreign nations. They could be a great help in securing our borders.

  16. AussieOi
    November 15, 2007 at 2:24 am #

    war is a racket.

    we spend 50% of our wealth on weapons to kill people.

    BAE GE Halliburton, KBR carlyle group and politicians love these days. our military today has nothing to do with defendi our freedom. it is darth vadars imperial army. why would we want to honour the footsoldiers in that? i’m sure they were well intentioned but did we care when Luke shot them? (pathetic analogy sorry)

    so we should let Nazi and Japanese fets march too? they had good intentions. ok , our vets, of any intentions.

    what are re truly remembering ?
    what are we honouring.
    what have we learnt?
    1/4 of homeless in USA today are vets. do we really care for them or are we celebrating our victory of our imperialism ?

    I believe that today’s military is mostly made up of redneck idiots, idealistic simpletons, 2nd chance criminals and an overwhelming number of mercenaries. lured by the $20k sign on bonuses , free health , housing, dental , education.

    it is for this reason I “barrack for” the iraqi insurgency. if more blackwater mercenaries get blown up then the ready supply of money grubby replacements might think twice and we might get out 0f iraq.

    is a blackwater vet a veteran? and a halliburton employee? what if they did the same, outsourced jobs of a US soldier ? who are celebrating?

    where does it end?

    Also, if we didn’t enter ww2 hitler would probably have beaten the soviets and there would have been no communism.

    of course if my auntie had balls she’d be my uncle.

    so tie a yellow ribbon , raise the flag and onward to the next country, protecting our oil flow and our way of life.

    respect the intention of some soldiers. todays Vet is nothing alongside a ww1 or ww2 vet. korea maybe.

    career militaries a mercenary armies. is a standing army even in your constitution ? I know a militia and a navy is.

  17. Michael L. McKee
    November 15, 2007 at 5:36 am #

    When it comes to honoring veterans I dont think you can “cherry pick.” Had it not been for the WWII vets we would now be speaking German in this country. You would have no freedoms. Feel free to bash any and all politicians but we owe vets for keeping this great nation free.
    #11 Bishop Rick on November 14th, 2007

    Actually, it is more likely that the language of the Japanese would have been our fate.

  18. Carissa
    November 15, 2007 at 10:46 am #

    is a standing army even in your constitution ?

    Article 1 Section 8 paragraph 12 says:
    (Congress shall have power)… “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years”

    Madison said:

    “A standing force… is a dangerous… necessary, provision.

    Next to the effectual establishment of the Union, the best possible precaution against danger from standing armies is a limitation of the term for which revenue may be appropriated to their support. This precaution the Constitution has prudently added.” Federalist Papers No. 41

    Traditionally, it has been understood that these armies would be for defense only. For example, in 1849, the Supreme Court said this:

    “The genius and character of our institutions are peaceful, and the power to declare war was not conferred upon Congress for the purpose of aggression or aggrandizement, but to enable the general government to vindicate by arms, if it should become necessary, its own rights and the rights of its citizens.” Norton, The Constitution of the United States, p. 72

    (aggrandize means to increase the power, status, or wealth of)

    I believe that today’s military is mostly made up of redneck idiots, idealistic simpletons, 2nd chance criminals and an overwhelming number of mercenaries. lured by the $20k sign on bonuses , free health , housing, dental , education.

    Mostly? I don’t think that is yet the case although it may be increasing. There are still plenty of very good people as well.

    if more blackwater mercenaries get blown up then the ready supply of money grubby replacements might think twice and we might get out 0f iraq

    Yikes, I’d prefer a less violent approach to ending… well, violence.

  19. AussieOi
    November 15, 2007 at 4:29 pm #

    Interesting email exchange…

    “Yesterday, we recalled a conversation from the weekend; the subject was rabbits.

    We were sitting in a café in London, watching a group of old men walk by. It was Remembrance Day, the 11th day of the 11th month…the day WWI stopped. The men were wearing their service medals; some had so many they practically stooped from the weight of them.

    “Of course, they should be proud of the time they spent in the army,” we were telling Elizabeth. “But there’s more to it. I watched a bit of the ceremony – commemorating those who died in WWI. They wheeled out one of the last veterans – Harry Patch, who served in the trenches. He’s 109 years old.”

    “Yes, I feel proud of them…and I’m not even British,” said Elizabeth. “It’s part of what holds a group of people together…it’s what gives them a sense of identity and what makes a nation work…a shared history…a shared sense of commitment and sacrifice…”

    “Yes, but it is also stupid…and often fatal. Remember, that rabbit?”

    We had a particular rabbit in mind. The one your editor ran over when he was driving on the rural roads of France. The rabbit feinted and dodged. The tactic might have worked against a wolf. But our Renault minivan was indifferent to feints and dodges. It simply crushed the poor animal.

    “Not all our instincts are suitable to modern life,” we observed. “We tend to eat too much…because some instinct tells us to load on calories when we have the chance…probably an instinct developed over thousands of years of living on the edge of starvation.

    “And instinct to fight wars too…that is even more dangerous than hamburgers. When WWI began, millions of young men answered the call. They stood up…got their guns…and went over to defend the Empire. It was not a logical, well-considered response.

    It was an instinct…a deep instinct that made men who didn’t sign up feel like cowards.

    “The instinct was a good one – thousands of years ago. Then, men needed to defend their villages and tribes. If they didn’t, their genes probably wouldn’t have survived into modern populations. But now, they rush into the trenches of WWI…or into Iraq today…and what’s the point? In WWI, the Europeans spent four years killing each other – for no apparent purpose. Germany never had any intention of invading England. The soldiers’ wives and children were never in danger. Even as a territorial dispute, the issues were trivial…and usually fraudulent. Nobody knew or really cared whether the Alsatians wanted to speak French or German. Then, at the end of the war along came the Americans with the doctrine of “self-determination,” the idea being that people should be free to decide for themselves which government ruled them. The Europeans practically laughed at Wilson when he came up with that one. Even the Americans themselves had already decided against it. The ‘War Between the States’ settled the matter; despite the declared intentions of the southern states, Lincoln’s army forced them back into the union.

    “The wars usually don’t make any sense…but the instinct is still there. So when the cannons warm up, men still grab their shields and their spears. The result: many of them get killed. The instinct proves fatal…just as it was for the rabbit. And then, both the dead and the living are hailed as heroes…that’s an instinct too…as if they really had defended their homes and families.

    “That’s true in Iraq today too…we praise the soldiers as heroes…even if we think the war is a humbug. And if you dare to point out that the war is a fraud…or even that it is probably a mistake, you’re called a coward. Of course, it’s preposterous. Logically, it takes no more courage to send someone else out to fight a war than it does to oppose it.”

    “Yes…but you wouldn’t want to deny all instincts,” said Elizabeth.

    “Faith…hope…charity…love…..those are instincts too.”

  20. Cricket
    November 18, 2007 at 8:17 am #

    Hi Jay.
    I ran across this blog while surfing around. I think cherry picking when it comes to politics is what all of us do…trying to make sense of what the Lord wants and fending off the adversary at the same time.

    I didn’t get to pick the wars my father and husband fought in. They fulfilled their contracts and didn’t have to shoot anyone. That said, those who believe that the wars are wrong have the right to choose but there is a terrible price to pay in so doing, especially if they wear the uniform.

    If we understand God’s law to be a higher law, then doffing the uniform in obedience and understanding of that higher law is one that I can respect. But do not bash those who may have a different perspective on it and still wear the uniform.

    My understanding is that the evil combinations have done all they can to weaken the citizens with restrictive gun laws, and other monstrous things like abolishing the militias. The military is federalized, but I also believe that righteous priesthood holders who serve will be able to help get this nation united again.

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