It’s coming up on Veteran’s Day. When I think of Veteran’s Day, my mind immediately goes to my father, Clement J. Abbott, who served for two years in Korea during that conflict in the early fifties. He came through it okay, didn’t suffer from any obvious signs of what is now called “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” but which was originally called “shellshock,” and went on to live a very productive, if somewhat short life.
I never talked about the Korean War with my dad, and he never offered up much information to me, or anyone. I guess war is something that is so awful that once you’ve been in one and make it out the other side, you tend to want to not bring it up if at all possible. Some things are best left buried.
That’s too bad, in a way. Sometimes terrible things need to be out there so everyone can see just how terrible they are. For instance, consider the case of our former Vice President. If Dick Cheney, who pushed President Bush hard to go into Iraq, had ever spent one second in combat, instead of applying for, and receiving five or six deferments, maybe the idea of sending young American men and women in to battle wouldn’t have been so appetizing. It kind of reminds me of that “reality show” Undercover Boss, where the heads of big companies take on the role of an employee for a while. They often learn pretty quickly that working in the trenches isn’t too appealing.
My dad got as far as the rank of Sergeant, with three stripes over one stripe. Since he died about 12 years ago I can’t ask him what he did in the war, but old photos that he took show a scene quite a bit like the set of MASH—a lot of tents and barracks in a valley, a lot of Army trucks and vehicles around, very dusty and sandy looking. There are also a bunch of photos of his buddies at some kind of club, apparently in Tokyo. Some of them have attractive young Asian ladies on their laps. I’m certain that the guys with the girls on their laps were the single ones, of course. Later, I wonder what they told their kids when they were asked ,”Daddy, what did you do in the war?”
Seriously though, and all politics aside, Veteran’s Day is a day to remember all the soldiers who fought for this country. I even think of the men and women who are overseas now, putting it all on the line for whatever cause their leaders have sent them over there to fight for. The politics of war are ugly, and often wrongheaded. War itself is ugly. In this world, you always hear about “survival of the fittest” and so on, and that as humans beings we are the most evolved and most successful of the primates because we have the ability to cooperate and get along and make concessions. We have these precious intellects that should make us smarter than we are, and one would hope that those intellects would allow us to be able to avoid ever firing a shot at another human being.
Until that day comes though, we still have men and women fighting for us, for their families and for their country. Honor them, as I do today.
Thank you for your service.