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Today is the day I wear my dog tags, from U.S. Army days, 1962-63.
I’m a vet, as are my two brothers, as are many relatives. My event of choice each year since 2002 has been Armistice Day of the Veterans for Peace. This mornings Minneapolis Star Tribune featured a column co-authored by two men I know, personally, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Mike McDonald. You can read it here.
Actually, my first recognition of Armistice Day was November 11, 2001. We were at Gatwick Airport in England, awaiting our flight home, and at 11 a.m. an announcement asked for two minutes of silence in recognition of the 1918 Armistice. I still find it hard to believe the absolute silence in that International Airport. It stuck with me and the next November 11, I believe it was at Ft. Snelling Cemetery, I attended my first Vets for Peace observance, and repeated the story of the previous year. World War I was no picnic….
This year I’ll hopefully be at the Capitol steps in St. Paul, when Larry Johnson completes an 11 mile walk from Minneapolis, and those of us in attendance will walk down to the facsimile Liberty Bell at the Veterans Service Building for a ceremonial bell-ringing, 11 bells, 11 times, at 11 a.m. on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.
This past year I have three specific memories of War.
- June 30, my sister, her husband and I represented the family at the Walsh County Historical Museum in Minto ND, where a fragment of the USS Arizona was dedicated, a gift from Joseph Voorhees. I had never met Joseph, who mysteriously made contact through a comment on my blog page several months earlier. It turned out to be very much for real, and Joseph and his brother, Thomas, met us at Minto on the appointed day, and the completely legal fragment was dedicated to the memory of our Uncle Frank, and Floyd Wells, another Walsh County sailor, who had died at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, as well as to the memory of their parents, Joseph and Deloris Voorhees. Their Dad had been in 82nd Airborne, and engaged at Battle of the Bulge and other missions as a demolitions specialist. It was a moving day.
2. In early October I was at a gathering of descendants of early residents of Hugo-Centerville MN. I had not been there before, so knew only the person who had invited me, and the guest I had brought. There were the usual stories, including one from a man who talked about the feet of a relative – perhaps his Dad, or Uncle – I don’t recall the specifics. This man, a war veteran, a farmer, was never seen without his shoes on. And after a while, the kids naturally wondered.
As I recall it, at some points he was seen without shoes, and his feet were hideously disfigured, a consequence of war-time ailment untreated, or inadequately treated too late. I wish I had paid more attention to the details. It was an incredible story of the lingering effects of a long-ago war.
3. Finally, last Saturday night, we were at at the 9th annual Building Bridges Awards Banquet of the Islamic Resource Group, an event I’ve attended almost every year. The MC opened the meeting, attended by over 200 in suburban Brooklyn Center, remembering the indigenous original occupants of the land on which the hotel stood, and then recognizing all of the veterans of service in anticipation of todays. It was a very appropriate and solemn touch.
At the gathering, I found myself thinking back to the first Awards dinner I had attended, and why. The answer turned out to be easy to find: it was at the beginning of my blog dated September 5, 2010: “The abundant insanity (that’s what it is – insanity) around the proposed (and approved) Islamic Center in lower Manhattan caused me to revisit a significant time in my youth“. (I hadn’t paid attention to this issue since 2010. Here’s a very long synopsis viewed Nov. 10, 2019.)
This business of war and peace is very complicated. We seem perpetually prefer war while saying we are for peace. Armistice/Veterans are synonymous this day, which just happens to be the first day of the week dominated by public hearings on impeachment of the President of the United States.
Pay close attention.
COMMENTS (additional in blog comments below the photos):
from Molly: I found this very moving… a brief clip, illustrated with old photos, of Leonard Cohen reciting the WW1 poem, “In Flanders Fields.” Blessings, each, and prayers for peace on this Armistice Day.
from Fred: Enjoyed, very much, your thoughts about Veterans Day. Growing up when I did, nearly all of the men I encountered from my father’s age cohort— family, friends and Dad—were veterans. Most never talked about their experience since nearly everyone had been part of the war effort.
POSTNOTE: The Vets for Peace bell-ringing at the Veterans Service Building was accomplished, in spite of near gale force winds and frostbite weather (under brilliant blue sky). The number attending was low, but more than normal because another group was there at the same time. I have not yet got “the rest of the story”, but the other group, there to ring the Liberty Bell, included former Governors Al Quie and Jesse Ventura (second photo below). There certainly was enough room for both groups, who were cordial to the extent one can be social in very frigid conditions.