May 30 is the day consecrated to the honor the memory of the Armed Forces, especially to those who died in service and to all veterans.
A week from then, June 6 is the 69th anniversary of D-Day, which was for so many of us the ‘game-changer’ of our lives-the biggest thing that ever happened to us or ever would.
What happened to us, what we experienced, what we did, what became of us because of that experience has been described in excruciating and endless detail over the years by the vets, by observers, by historians and yes, even charlatans.
We have been called ‘The greatest generation,” “heroes,” the best and by all sorts of hyperbole and some insults, but we were eventually seen as representing the best and finest our country had to offer, a distinction that so meanly and unfortunately was denied to our younger counterparts of Korea and Vietnam and other national adventures.
World War II was a national effort subscribed to by most Americans - the other fights and wars were decisive and mean, and characterized by a lack of real national support.
They were called unnecessary, imperialism, organized murder and other things.
Troops were insulted and snubbed and service was a dirty word. Somehow, this mainly changed with The Gulf War and honor has been restored to the narrative of military service.
To me, as the shadows of my night begin to gather, as my personal stake diminishes because time really does march on, I am much concerned that the entire business of military management and concern may loose some of its importance, perhaps unseen or depreciated.
Between World War I and its successor, or continuation, the United States disarmed, and military service was so diminished and even denigrated that we couldn’t field a force as large as Belgium’s.
We prepared nothing, allowed our forces to diminish to the point of disappearance. What do we need big forces for? Who we gonna fight?
How can we pay and so on were the words of ruin to the point that soldiers received the kingly remuneration of $21 per month before deductions but were given princely accommodation, which we would not use for barn animals in many cases and beans became a real staple of food called meals.
We lowered our capability so much that in 1940 I and my colleagues were using bullets made in 1918 to train. When we could afford to train.
At ‘big’ maneuvers in 1941 troops carried signs saying I am a truck and I am a tank.
This is an anti-aircraft artillery unit and others because we didn’t have the real thing as wisdom told us we’d not have to fight again.
In 1939 when Nazi Germany lost its terror and in 1941 an aberration called Pearl Harbor came about.
We lost a lot of men then, and later we lost more because we just didn’t have the training and material due to expense cutting to beneath the bone.
We hear echoes of these arguments today.
I do not know, but I suspect that we are facing as large a menace as we ever did and we think we can keep it from biting us by talking and ignoring. We can’t and we won’t.
Forces and acts are abroad today as vicious and bad as anything Hitler, Stalin and their ilk could conceive and to ignore or denigrate them risks repeating a history we know all too well.
We don’t need to over react or build a huge machine. We do need a call to stay prepared, sensibly and manageably and never again have to carry signs saying “I am a tank” and try to shoot outmoded ammo to learn. We buy insurance to protect our assets, we have to try some national insurance
for protection — not spend a blank check and spend, but spend to build, save and protect. Speeches won’t do the job. I don’t wish on anyone the need to repeat June 6, 1944 and the really terrible days that followed.