Honoring 11 on 11/11
It’s become a tradition here on Peace Tree Farm to write a post on Veterans Day. Most of those pieces have revolved around the 11-11-11 idea. As I’m sure you know, that means honoring the holiday’s origins as Armistice Day, commemorating the end of hostilities in the Great War, which took effect at 11am on November 11, 1918.
This year, I celebrate Veterans Day by honoring veterans. Eleven specific veterans, that is. Veterans who have affected me and my life in some way, large or small.
Let’s begin in the family. To find vets among my relatives, you have to go back to World War II. There are veterans on both sides, at least by marriage.
- My father’s first cousin (and therefore my first cousin once removed) B.L. served on the crew of a destroyer escort, though to be honest I don’t know whether that was in the Atlantic or Pacific theater. He talked about the war on very, very rare occasions, saying very little about it on those occasions. His younger brother S.L. may also have served, but I don’t really recall.
- My mother was the older of two sisters. Although her work colleagues at the Signal Corps were a major part of our family’s network of friends when I was growing up, I can’t include my mother as a veteran. Her sister’s husband L.S., however, definitely did service as a translator in Europe. His fluency in German (and Yiddish) became increasingly important as WWII was winding down.
- My mother’s first cousin’s husband H.N. was one of the lucky ones. So very many of his fellow B-24 crews were shot down in the Army Airforce’s Operation Tidalwave campaign against the Romanian oil refineries at Ploesti, but he made it back from that raid and many others.
- That would be B.P., the father of one of my closest undergrad friends. He’d been one of the thousands of soldiers who waded onto a beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944, and trudged eastward into Germany during the succeeding year. He saw concentration camps too.
- My ex’s uncle E.P. did two separate military stints. He was on a ship off the Southeast Asian coast during the war, and later on he volunteered for the Army. Both times, he was a supply sergeant (or whatever they call the Navy equivalent).
- My Congressman, Jim McDermott, was a psychiatrist in the Navy during Vietnam. I’m certain that Jim’s experience treating the PTSD and related ailments of shattered Vietnam War servicemen was a contributing factor in developing his progressive political philosophy.
- After serving on the ground in Vietnam, my friend and fellow PacNW blogger Shaun Dale was lucky not to be one of those patients treated by Dr. McDermott. His “proudly partisan” activism as “A Democrat - without prefix, without suffix, without apology” (those slogans are right at the top on his Upper Left blog) is always informed and often based on his time in the Army.
- The prolific and fierce HorsesAss commenter known as Roger Rabbit (I don’t know his real name) also carried a rifle in Vietnam. He’s a retired lawyer and former judge, but he proudly points to his military service while ceaselessly battling the trolls and poltroons that infest the HA comment threads.
- One of the seminal influences on Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, whose nickname “Kos” is so well known in the progressive political scene, was his stint in the US Army. As he himself admits, his service is what changed him from a Republican to a progressive Democrat. As a very early Kossack (I started participating before commenters had to sign up for usernames, and registered as N in Seattle on the first day of the current site), I’ve met Markos many times.
- Another Gulf-era vet—also a longtime Kossack—is R.H., who lives over in Bellevue. He retired from the Navy after more than 20 years, so he’s also an Iraq War vet. His military experience continues as a principal focus, as he has a major role in the national VoteVets organization.
- My friend R.N. was deployed to Iraq twice before his discharge from the Army. He was trained as a translator—a Korean translator—yet he was never ordered to Korea or anywhere else in East Asia. Raised an evangelical in the Mountain West, he was (like Markos) “Democratized” in the Army. Now living here in Seattle, he’s aiming toward a degree in political science, political campaign activism, and perhaps even political office some day. He’d be a good one if that’s what he chooses to do.