Friday, November 11, 2005

Salute to veterans and a new milestone

Eighty-seven years ago today, on the 11th hour of this 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, World War I ended. About 20 years later, Congress finally got around to making the day a federal holiday, then known as Armistice Day. Sixteen years later, in 1954, the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to honor all veterans, including those from World War II and Korea.

Congress, being Congress, decided in 1968, in the midst of the Vietnam war, to move Veterans Day to October. That went over like a lead balloon, but it was easier to get American troops out of Vietnam than it was to fix that date problem. It took another 10 years for the date to be moved back to Nov. 11 in 1978.

Today we honor all veterans of service from those wars and the additional conflicts of Grenada, Iraq I, Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq II as well as those who served during times of peace.

The only time I've ever worn a military uniform was as a kid, after finding my dad's old stuff from his days as a Marine when he was not much more than a kid himself. I used to love wearing his field jacket with his, and thus my, last name on the patch above the pocket. I also liked wearing his khaki shirt with the private first class stripe on the sleeve. He wasn't in the Marines very long. A knee injury earned him a medical discharge. And I've never heard him tell stories of boot camp or any other service lore. No Semper Fi stickers ever adorned our cars. It was like a closed chapter in a book lost on the back of the bookcase.

Others in my family served as well. One of my dad's brothers was in the Army, part of the time spent in the Big Red One and he served at least two tours in Vietnam. His old foot locker, with mementos of his military service, is now in my dad's possession. I would have loved to have my uncle tell me the stories behind all the photos and plaques and papers in there, but he died a couple of years ago. Some of my most treasured possessions as a child were the insignias off of one of his uniforms that he gave me after he retired.

I had a cousin in the Navy during Vietnam as well. Another uncle, my mom's brother, was in the Navy after Vietnam.

We weren't what you would call a military family. Just a pretty average American family of modest means and sometimes that meant some of the best opportunities for young men in our family involved working for Uncle Sam.

In many ways I was pretty lucky. I was one of the few people in my extended family to get a chance to go to college. I briefly flirted with the idea of joining ROTC, and had many friends in college who did join up to either pay for school or to chase a dream of becoming a military pilot. I had that dream as a kid, but never had the eyesight or the physical prowess to pursue that dream. And once I got to college and learned that everyone pursuing a career as a jet pilot was studying engineering, which I had never even heard of before reaching campus, it was pretty clear I was out of my element with the spit-and-polish crowd.

I'm not great at blindly following orders either. I have a nasty habit of asking why, which could have led to trouble before ever earning officer's bars. And I can't say I have always understood why our nation's leaders send young men and women in to places where the odds of getting killed, and the necessity to sometimes kill, is a daily fact of life. But I have an enduring awe of military aviation and deep respect for the men and women in uniform.

I remember when Operation Desert Storm began. It was not long before my daughter was born and I used to spend hours glued to the TV watching CNN and other news network's coverage of a war on the other side of the globe. I couldn't believe that my generation, in the latter part of the 20th century, was engaged in a war.

Today, I have a couple of friends who are lieutenant colonels in their respective branches of the service. One has served in Iraq, the other will be deployed in the near future to Afghanistan. I wish it were not so, but I am proud that they have gone, or will go, nonetheless.

Today I salute those future veterans, and all the other men and women serving with them and who have served before them for their service.

***

On another note, sometime today, in all likelihood, a milestone of sorts will be reached on this blog. Someone today will be the 8,000th visitor. I've turned on the visible counter so whomever is the "lucky" 8,000th visitor will be able to know they have made that milestone visit.

I'm not sure what to make of this "milestone" though. I never started this site to be popular, but 8,000 visitors in 11 months seems pretty underwhelming. When the Fishwrap was born, it was partially as self-therapy and it was partially to get me back writing again.

So I'm not sure where to go with this thing from here and I'm looking for your help. There is a small but loyal cadre of people who visit here virtually daily. I have to say that amazes me. The question is: Why? What is it about what you see here that you like? That keeps you coming back? And equally important, what suggestions would you have on what you would want to see going forward?

If you are so inclined, let me know which posts on here you've liked. I've always wanted to have a "greatest hits" section on here, but I have very little idea which posts are "hits" and which ones are misses. OK, I have a pretty good idea which ones are misses. Maybe that's what I should do, have a "greatest misses" section. That might be funny.

I life funny.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great Veterans Day and thanks for spending part of it at the Fishwrap.


5 comments:

GRT said...

OK...brainstorming...I like your style, sort of laid back...I'm amazed at your willingness to share some extraordinarily private moments with the world at large...I keep waiting for you to use your considerable skills to address those issues which will, eventually, touch on the quotidian about which you write so eloquently; sort of wondering how you'll answer the question, "What did you do during the Dark Days, Daddy?"...reading this gives me something to do at 5:30 in the morning beyond the NYTimes and my pathetic bank account...Finally, neat people need to be supported.
:--)

3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) said...

I think it's a good thing we honor all of our Veterans G-Man. This was a nice post.

But they give the rugrats the day off from school...

3T

the Caitlinator said...

My favorite blogs are the ones where personality shines through, and yours is one of those. Your posts seem honest and real and I like that, which is why I come and read every day. I can't really make any suggestions because I can't tell you how to be you. All I can say is, keep on keepin' on! I'll keep coming back.

No_Newz said...

I am 8,022! YAY! What'd I win? I come back everyday to see if you have froze yet. That's it. LOL! ;)
Have a great weekend!
Lois Lane

The G-man said...

Gene, I think that's the longest comment I've ever seen from you. And thank you very much. It means a lot. I miss you my friend. I'd love to mix up a pitcher of martinis and hear your take on the events of the day, like so many happy memories I have over the years.

And 3T, contrats on being at least the co-8,000th visitor. And thanks for still being a friend and bothering to read the drivel that gets thrown up here.

Caitlinator, I am humbled that you keep coming back, I truly am. And can you try to keep your clothes on? There seem to be a lot of references to you being naked on your blog lately. And old man like me can handle such talk!

Aw, Lois, you do care! And no I haven't frozen -- yet anyway. The clouds and rain came back, so things have actually warmed up around here. Well, that and I've cranked the heat!

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