Saturday, November 11, 2006

11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month


There are thousands of blogs, websites, wikis, radio programs, and television specials concentrating on the observance of what has come to be knon as Veteran's Day. This day began as Armistice Day which was to denote the end of hostilities on the western front between the Allied and Central powers of World War I. That is the school book history of the day which honors the veterans who have lost their lives and also the ones who have been fortunate enough to make it back home. But I would like to break away from the traditional and go a little deeper into the history of a select few of our veterans which normally doesn't get cited, printed, or reported.

I would like to tell the story of one who recognized the birth and growth of what is now known as the military industrial complex or permanent war economy.

This hero was Major General Smedley Darlington Butler, who was the most decorated Marine in history at the time of his death. Butler recognized that due to the growth of the military industrial complex, war had become nothing short of a racket. And he spoke of the growing war profiteering and authored the book War Is A Racket which was very critical of warfare's profit motives.
WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. In the World War a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War.


Most of you might be familiar with the next veteran I want to talk a little about. He's been commemorated through song and three different movies. His story is about a simple man from a simple land who was pushed into the heroic light due to one single photograph by Joe Rosenthal. This man was Ira Hamilton Hayes. President Roosevelt called the surviving Iwo Jima flagraisers caught in the photograph back to the U.S. and the men were used in a public relations endeavor to boost the sale of war bonds by the U.S. military. This misuse of Hayes by the war machine innevitably destroyed him. He could never cope with the fact he was regarded as a hero while he considered his buddies who had died and were dying in that battle to be the real heroes. He knew the hero’s were being killed and he was just a Marine caught in a photo. Haye's tried to come to terms with his guilt by turning to alcohol due to what would these days be termed PTSD. The military finally returned Ira to his unit at Iwo Jima when his public drunkenness became an embarassment to them while on the war bonds tour.

Ira's story is heartbreaking and it shows the reality of the war machine and the relentless press for the continuation and the funding of war. Ira knew the truth...he knew what all the other people knew, who find themselves in war with suffering and death all around! And what they knew had nothing to do with public relations and supporting the war effort. They knew what real heroism was and they knew it wasn't something that could be promoted, advertised, and marketed!
It was supposed to be soft duty, but I couldn't take it. Everywhere we went people shoved drinks in our hands and said 'You're a Hero!' We knew we hadn't done that much but you couldn't tell them that. How could I feel like a hero when only five men in my platoon of 45 survived, when only 27 men in my company of 250 managed to escape death or injury?...I was sick. I guess I was about to crack up thinking about all my good buddies. They were better men than me and they're not coming back. Much less back to the White House, like me.


Next I want to mention two people who were conscientious objectors. The first was from Lynchburg, Va. This man was Desmond T. Doss who was awarded the Medal of Honor. What makes Desmond so unique as a MOH winner is the fact he refused to kill or even carry a weapon. His beliefs were strong enough and his convictions could not be unmoved. Desmond's story is one of real heroism, dedication, and true caring. Truly remarkable story of a simple man who chose not to fight but who within possessed the courage of a lion. Doss endured much ridicule for his beliefs from those around him and as such, he was continuously harrassed. But he was true to himself and his Brothers in battle. In 2004, a statue of Mr. Doss was placed in the National Museum of Patriotism in Atlanta, Ga. Right along side are the statues of Dr. Martin Luter King, Jimmy Carter, and another former MOH winner, General Gray Davis. Also in 2004, the documentary "The Conscientious Objector" was released telling of Doss' story of faith, heroism, and bravery. Doss never liked the term conscientious objector and preferred to be called a concientious cooperator.

The other man I want to mention is the only other conscientious objector to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor. This man was Thomas W. Bennett from Morgantown, West Virginia. Thomas, although he possessed deep-seated religious convictions, felt the need to help and serve his country. Mr. Bennett served with Bravo Company 14th Infantry in Vietnam. A wonderful account of Mr. Bennett's history, written by Edward F. Murphy, can be found at HistoryNet.

That's what I might like to do -- gain the ability to save lives -- in hopes they might learn to live in peace. If I am called to Nam, I will go. Out of obligation to a country I love I will go and possibly die for a cause I vehemently disagree with.

It is my obligation to give service to my country. That's why I'm here -- to help provide freedom for dissenting voices....I believe in America. I believe that our process of government can respond to the people's needs -- if we each will assume our responsibility.


The other person I want to mention today is about a young man whose Father is currently touring the country to raise awareness of his son's courageous actions and organize support for his defense! This young man is Lt. Ehren Watada who has been formally charged with contempt towards President Bush, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and missing movement. Ehren is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse deployment to what he feels is an unlawful war in Iraq. Watada offered to resign or deploy to Afghanistan but was rebuffed. Ehren's action is supported by Veterans for Peace , the Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and many,many more organizations. Just what is the definition of courage and do our courts really think somebody who is loyal to their conscience doesn't show a ton of courage? His beliefs in real patriotism, values, and his demand for integrity from elected representatives goes above and beyond the call in this veteran's eyes!
It is my duty as a commissioned officer of the United States Army to speak out against grave injustices. My moral and legal obligation is to the Constitution and not those who would issue unlawful orders. I stand before you today because it is my job to serve and protect those soldiers, the American people, and innocent Iraqis with no voice. --

For those vets who can read this, Happy Veteran's Day Brothers and Sisters! For those who are no longer with us...we miss you and we hope that our fight for injustice and the return of integrity will honor your sacrifices! Hooah!

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