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Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace

On this Veterans day, we invite you to take a look back at Bill Moyers' interview with author, Maxine Hong Kingston, originally broadcast on Memorial day of this year:

For the past 15 years, Kingston has been working with veterans - more than 500 soldiers from World War II, from Vietnam, and now, from Iraq - as well as other survivors of war to convert the horrors they experienced into the words and stories that Kingston believes will help them cope and survive. Read excerpts from the collection of writings by veterans and their families.

Photo: Robin Holland


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Thanks to "Sir Vertual" for using 04 December 2007 as a date on which to recall his father's exploits with the 104th Infantry Division. My own late father, serving with Co I, 3rd BN, 415th Inf, of the 104th Infantry Division, earned a Silver Star in Germany on 04 December 1944.
And in answer to the question of what today's veterans will think when we/they look back on our experiences in Iraq (I'm on my 2nd tour here), I guess we'll think about our families back home, our friends in the service, and how so little of the public ever understood anything going on over here.

In the days when I was still a Christian, before I found out how far most of the churches differ from the philosophy of the Galilean, Jesus, I attended Presbyterian church in Newcastle, Co. Down, N. Ireland. I was vastly impressed that the minister, Rev. Dr. Anderson, chose to preach an anti-war sermon on Armistice Day, which happened to be Sunday.
We so rarely hear the professed and professional followers of Jesus doing anything other than 'pray for the troops'. Usually, it's better to bring them home.

Hitler's war is about the only exception, and that happened in part because after the 'Great War', the French, the British (whose Prime Minister was a Welshman, and should have known better), and the Italians wanted to punish Germany. They refused to listen to the American's (Woodrow Wilson's) view that it could bring no good.

Oh, and I think they should have hanged the Kaiser.

My Uncle, Bob Washburn, was captured by the Germans
in the Battle of the Bulge after spending many days in the Huertgen forest and living to tell about it.
I asked him once whether he ever met Kurt Vonnegut
Jr. while he was imprisoned since Kurt Vonnegut was also captured in December 1944. He told me:

"hell no. all anericans with german last names were kept in a separate prison camp or a separate barracks
and out of contact with the rest of us..."

has anyone else heard of this segregation in german
pow camps?

My (Late) father was drafted in 1944 & after training for nigh-time 'infantry warfare' The young 19 yr oldwas shipped to Europe with the 104th Infantry Division 'Timberwoves'...Spending 195 consecutive days on the front lines, literally fighting the Germans so closely it became commonplace to see the expression on a 15yr old's face as he died.

'The War' even as seen in a broad, yet limited view as Mr. Burn's recent documentary, leaves anyone with a clear-concise 'REASON' as to WHY 'everyone in America' was contributing to 'VICTORY'...Every soldier, every American knew they were fighting for Freedom and Democracy...There was no question about 'why' or 'for what'...nor was there ever a thought of any other outcome, other than 'VICTORY'.
Like most Veterans of 'The War', my Father never spoke a word about his experiences there until nearly 45 years had passed and the remaining members of 'the Timberwolves' began to reunite yearly and to exchange 'their' stories, Christmas cards and broke the silence of the 'hell' they had witnessed together...
I can still hear him telling his 'own' personal recollections of the many things he lived through and I understand (to some degree) 'why' he couldn't bring himself to relive and recall the unspeakable horror and uncertainty he experienced 24 hours a day for those 195 consecutive days.
He finally did begin to divulge some of his experiences, the pride of serving his country came shining through.
However, (even after 50+ years) there were still a couple of memories that were (understandably) so horrifying and
painful, they kept him from making a coherent sentence, whenever he tried to speak of them. Whenever he tried (on numerous occasions) to speak of the 'concentration camps' they found with bodies stacked as high as the freight trains that had brought them there, tears fell from the blue eyes that I 'never saw cry' and the strong voice became so weak and feeble that he simply couldn't say another word and had to stop.
Then, I remember the tears of joy, (still fresh after so long) of both war-torn Russian Red Army Soldiers and weary 104th Div. Timberwolves hugging each other like old friends, in the icy waters of the Elber River...Knowing they had helped bring 'The War' (and the hell), to an end...

(Years later, declassified documents show over 1 million American Soldiers, including the Timberwolves were already scheduled to invade mainland Japan with unspeakable casualties expected)...

In remembering my Father and the small glimpse of his experiences in 'The War'...I can't help but wonder what today's veterans will feel in 'their time of looking back'...

It is time to impeach Dick Cheney and George Bush and make it absolute law that the servicemen and women of the USA will never again be so callously and flippantly betrayed.
That the Democrats in Congress fear to do what should be done is alarming. It effectively states that our leaders can lie to us and exploit us and get away with it.

Thank you Lee- marvelous post.

Beautiful post by Lee Jankowski. I have only read a little of Kurt Vonnegut, but will seek out and read more.

Being a non-combat veteran, I can't truly understand the experience of being in war. I try to help by volunteering at the USO once a week. It's a small thing, but it is nice to help with actions instead of "supporting words."

I hope that the new director of the VA will be honest in his effort to make changes and that other people don't attempt to block him. Veterans need better treatment.

on this november the 11th I remember a veteran who has been an incredible influence on my life.
He was the man who taught me about november 11th being Armastice day. A day to remember how useless war is at solving our problems with others but how useful it is to the makers of death tools and their backers.
he taught me about the word enemy.
How so often we could more easily define enemy as a person or a people whose story we are ignorant of.
To make them an enemy it is in fact necessary to be ignorant of their stories. How easy it is to be ignorant of others by simply not asking the questions that open the doors to their world, because we should all realize how our lives have become invisible to people who do not stray far from the television or their front door to learn about our world.
no matter if it is a person or a nation of people, it is like an iceberg where so little is on the surface but what it truly necessary to know and act upon is what lies beneath that surface, what lies beneath the misunderstanding.
That is why war has to happen so quickly, without consideration for such things. IF we knew the deeper story of the people we are calling an enemy, we would not so easily call them enemy.
conversation, relationship, Understanding, empathy... these are what take time but give such greatness and wisdom to a people... to a nation of people. It is why we are no longer considered to be a great nation.
We fear what we don't take the time to know and we kill, with rationalizations already thought up before hand no matter if it is a civilian or a soldier, what we fear.
do we fear more than we understand?
This world takes an immense amount of cooperation to work. fear cuts down on our cooperation. fear destroys from within what no enemy can touch.

the veteran I am speaking about is Kurt Vonnegut who died a few months ago but while he lived, understood so much, asked many questions and shared from his heart without fear.

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