5/26/17

Off to WAR


This is the weekend we in the U.S. honor those who have fallen victim to the follies of old men far from the front. I'm not one to say that war is never required, but it should be the very last option, never the first.

This photo shows a line of men about to be sent off to fight in World War I. On either side of them is full on flag waving patriotism. It's easy to wave the flag when you're not the one carrying it into battle.

Click on images to see them larger.





How many of these young men returned unscathed? How many suffered with nightmares for the rest of their lives and the label "shell shocked"? They were labeled as being weak, unmanly for not just getting on with their lives. The war was over, let it go. It took a long time for humanity as a whole to understand the mental damage done by war and be willing to openly talk about it and give it a name: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

So as we celebrate those who have passed don't forget to look around for the walking wounded amongst us. Those old men, still far from the front, continue to make life decisions for those they'll never meet.

I will be spending part of this Memorial Day with a group of World War II veterans. So few of these veterans are left and I know of many who still refuse, or cannot, talk of what they saw and did, let alone what happened to them. Their stories are dying with them and they will soon be forgotten.

Memorial Day is not just about BBQ's and good sales.

This post is my completely off topic contribution to Sepia Saturday.
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18 comments:

  1. Sad to contemplate the stories that won't get told. I hope you can coax a few out.

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    1. I think the stories will never be told. It's a shame because we end up with no counter point to those who beat the drum for war if the voices who have experienced it aren't will to talk.

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  2. It's easy to forget what Memorial Day is all about.

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    1. What? It's not about a good deal on a car?

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  3. Completely off topic, but definitely on point. Well done, well done.

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  4. Such a great post and wonderful photos. My father became a POW in WWII and went through a lot...amazingly, he never told my mother or I what horrific experiences he had. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. I hope at some point you are able to find a group that he would be willing to talk to and record his story. My dad recently did this and it will be in the Library of Congress. Check to see if there is something similar in Canada where your dad might be willing to open up to someone else, thus saving you the grief of hearing him tell the story. He is probably trying to protect your mom as much as himself.

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  5. A very moving post, with poignant photographs, for how many of those men marching to war never came back?

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    1. That's the question the old men in power never ask.

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  6. As you remark, today we are, thank heaven, much more aware of what mental and emotional damage war can cause a person to suffer and have begun to offer up treatment and hope for those whose lives have been upended by it. Yes, they came home from the war, but are not exactly the person they were before they went. War changes people and not for the better!

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    1. I think we're aware, but still removed from it unless it's a family member or friend. I don't think we've gotten completely past the stigma of it.

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  7. My late father-in-law never talked about his experiences as a POW or before, except when he got together with his POW mates, but even then he mainly listened. Australia's equivalent is ANZAC Day, commemorated annually on 25 April.

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    1. This is the same behavior I have experienced talking to many vets. Only one opened up to me about his time in a German camp and that was to tell me he'd been sent to the camp dramatized in the movie The Great Escape. He arrived there two weeks after the escape.

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  8. A fascinating image. It's astounding that people climbed onto the rooftops to see the soldiers off. Since US troops didn't deploy for Europe until the spring/summer of 1918, unlike their French/British/Russian /German counterparts in 1914, these men knew something about what to expect. It required a kind of patriotism and courage that we don't see on display anymore.

    Over the last few years on the few occasions when I've been at an airport, I've seen groups of servicemen and servicewomen dressed in their fatigues and with giant duffle packs waiting to catch a plane off to Iraq, Afghanistan, or who knows where. Their modern military training may prepare them better, but this new kind of warfare has different kinds of horror that must leave awful stains on a soldier's psyche. I wonder if 100 years on, some blogger will post an instagram image from our time that will have the same poignancy.

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    1. I can still remember being on a flight to Hawaii in '69 that was mostly soldiers. The board at the airport said "Honolulu, Guam, Saigon" and I remember turning to my dad and saying "Let's make sure we get off at the first stop." There were probably only about 15 civilians on the flight. It was a very rowdy/noisy flight. A flight attendant came back to those of us grouped at the back of the plane to explain that they were allowing the soldiers to do whatever they wanted on the flight and we all agreed. I still remember one soldier unrolling a poster of Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider to the cheers of others.

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  9. Wars are first waged by old men, then the young ones are sent to battle, and those who come home are forever scarred in some way, but strangely many of them want to have new wars waged. Not that many veterans become pacifists. I think that's sad.

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    1. It is sad that more don't take the path to pacifism. I sometimes think the comradery is what gets them through it during the service and afterwards. They don't analyze it beyond that.

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