Thursday, November 12, 2015

Veterans Day

“In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned.  When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.” Mark Twain
below, Philadelphia, PA, November 11,1918
Unlike many national holidays held annually on Mondays, Veterans Day is always on November 11; it is an outgrowth of Armistice Day, commemorating the cessation of World War I hostilities on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.
For his SALT column Jeff Manes interviewed Vietnam vet Patrick O’Donnell, host of the WJOB program “Veterans Views.”  In 1967 at age 19 O’Donnell was sent to Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne.  He told Manes:
    I was a specialist. My specialty was killing. I had an M-16 rifle. At times, I carried an AK-47. I had a grenade launcher. I also carried a 12-gauge shotgun
  When I first got there, they put us in a deuce and a half (21/2-ton cargo truck) and drove us to a place called An Khe. When I got there, the convoy got ambushed in what they called the An Khe Pass. I wasn't there maybe seven or eight hours and we were already in a firefight.  We were a brigade made up of four battalions. I was an infantryman. My job was to search and destroy the enemy. Our job was to kill. We were sent to all the hot spots.
    There were snakes everywhere. Spiders as big as your hand. I saw a centipede in a dry creek bed that was longer than my arm and just as thick. I didn't know if it was running forward or backward, but it was quick. The centipede creeped me out the most. You had to watch for punji stakes. They were dipped in feces so we'd get infections. There were booby traps all along the border.
  We were always in the jungle. I didn't have a tent or hooch to sleep in. We became part of the jungle. I never got to see Bob Hope. We had to have our pants tucked into our boots because the leeches would get on you. We'd hump with temperatures over 100 degrees. Our shirts would turn white from the salt.

High school classmate Bettie Erhardt a posted a photo of her dad in a WW II military uniform for Veterans Day.  John Jacobsen’s son Chris displayed one of John (above) during the 1960s, when he served in Germany.

Dave had the day off, so Tom Wade came over with a dish of Darcey’s wondrous potato salad, and I won one of four board games before attending an IUN Veterans Day Soup and Substance program featuring four military recruiters.  They stressed noncombat jobs available, such as plumber, electrician, and cook, as well as opportunities for free college education.  The spiel reminded me of Patrick O’Donnell telling Jeff Manes that he’d been told he’d probably be stationed in Germany but ended up in “a hellhole [where] there was death, destruction and mayhem.”  A young woman officer was the most effective, outlining the need and opportunities for nurses.

In our condo courtyard I spotted a decal on a visitors’ car that from a distance looked like a Playboy bunny.  It turned out to be the Little Mermaid, and under it was the slogan, “Be a Nurse.”
 proposed detention site; NWI Times photo by Ed Bierschent

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has reversed her position and now opposes an immigrant detention center in Gary across from the Gary airport.  Her statement read in part:
            While it is my experience as an advocate for civil and human rights, my long history as a proponent of criminal justice reform, or even a staunch supporter of President (Barack) Obama's immigration reform policy, I could not align my record with my support of this project.

In Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s “Double Down: Game Change 2012” the authors mention that Donald Trump was flirting with running for President four years ago, questioning where Obama was born until the President produced a Hawaii birth certificate.  With Trump in attendance at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, Obama quipped that the Donald “can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter.  Like, did we fake the moon landing?  What really happened at Roswell?  And where are Biggie and Tupac?”  Then, taking aim at Trump’s reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice,” the President joked:
            The men’s cooking team did not impress the judges from Omaha Steaks, and there was a lot of blame to go around.  But you, Mr. Trump, recognized that the real problem was a lack of leadership.  And so, ultimately, you didn’t blame Lil John or Meat Loaf.  You fired Gary Busey.  And these are the kinds of decisions that would keep me up at night.  Well handled, sir.  Well handled.

Originally a blackjack phrase, “Double down” in politics means to become even more resolute in one’s stance or decision.  The popularity of Texas Hold ´em has given rise to a similar expression, “all in.” While details of the 2012 election are familiar, “Double Down” contains juicy anecdotes and telling quotes, such as this 2013 Presidential witticism at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland: “My name is Barack Obama of the Moneygall O’Bamas.  And I’ve come home to find the apostrophe that we lost somewhere along the way.”
 Obama in Moneygall, Ireland

Having inherited Bush’s never-ending War on Terrorism, Obama has been dragged into the Mideast cauldron more than I’d hoped, but I shudder to think what a Republican president would have done.  I echo the sentiments of Civil War veteran and jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, who as a young lieutenant sustained injuries at Antietam and almost died of dysentery at Chancellorsville:
  Lord, bid war’s trumpet cease;
  Fold the whole earth in peace.
Oliver Wendell Holmes as jurist and Union soldier
After the first place Hot Shots slaughtered the Engineers in game one, the next two came down to the whether our final bowler, Frank Shufran, could mark.  The first time he did, but in the final game he left the 2-4-5 and his second ball seemed perfect but he 5-pin remained standing.  Opponent Dave Czapla rolled a 697 series.

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