Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day of the Eleventh Month.

Veterans Day. Really it's Armistice Day. At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, they ended the incredible slaughter of World War One.

How orderly. The Germans had already consented to the terms of their defeat, having suffered their "Black Day" after their nerve cracked on August 8, 1918, when the Allies (bolstered by the newly arriving American doughboys--Over There--) launched their counterattacks that would end The War To End All Wars.

Unbeknownst to anyone, in the mix was a Bavarian corporal on the front lines who was almost orgasmic in his love of the destruction of war. (This would be Adolph Hitler. If you didn't know this, you really need to get off the Internet and go spend some time in the library.)

People died on the front lines while waiting for the eleventh whatever to arrive. I think that's the point of the famous Erich Remarque book, "All Quiet on the Western Front." Here's the ending page. (The protagonist was the last schoolboy left out of a number of students who had marched proudly off to war in 1914.)

"He died in October 1918, on a day that was so quiet and still on the whole front, that the army report confined itself to the single sentence: All quiet on the Western Front.

He had fallen forward and lay on the earth as though sleeping. Turning him over one saw that he could not have suffered long: his face had an expression of calm, as though almost glad the end had come."

The Academy Award winning movie had the protagonist being shot down by a sniper when he tried to cup a butterfly that had alighted atop the German trench line.

I have three sons. These young adults so love their Mother, who immediately conscripted them while they were minors to be front line soldiers in our divorce, that they haven't communicated with me for years. (They have, however, taken every single dollar I have ever sent to them without a single word of acknowledgement.)

I sent the above quote to each of them when he turned 18. I worry about them. They could be drafted for the ill-defined and apparently interminable war on terror if the draft was ever resurrected, and maimed or killed. For what?

But let me pay tribute to some real men on this special day. Thank you Uncle Harry, for your service during WW2 aboard the Cruiser Vincennes, and for your heroic actions in earning a Bronze Star as you protected your men, and us. And thank you, Dad, for doing your duty at Peleliu and Okinawa, horrifying ordeals you underwent while protecting our way of life that 99% of the persons reading this blog will never have the remotest clue about. (I miss you.)

(Below: Here's a real warrior from The Great War, my Grandfather, "Jack," from Winona, Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Navy from 5/1917 to 2/1919, patrolling aboard a Destroyer in the North Atlantic and around the British Isles.)


Buck Pennington said...

...horrifying ordeals you underwent while protecting our way of life that 100% of the persons reading this blog will never have the remotest clue about.

Well, make that 99%. As a career USAF kinda guy (22 years, retired in '85), I have a remote idea.

Nice post, otherwise!

Susan said...

I'm sorry about your sons. I have some "former family" that treat me the same way. Not children... but still, I understand.

jeanne said...

we observed a minute of silence yesterday at 11.

Sunshine said...

The pain... in the whole ordeal.. and in the broken relationship with your sons: Words fail me.. except to say Sorry, So Sorry.

Judgement of the court doesn't make the losses go away, but must be some kind of comfort.

In the passage of time there can be hope, but there is ongoing pain in ongoing waiting. But love never gives up.

Congratulations for keeping on running.

David said...

"The War to End All Wars" always causes me to shake my head.

I salute all the memory of all men you recognized for their service, even if they were Navy.

Go Army. Beat Navy. ('tis the season; as unlikely as a Mule victory may be)