Thursday, November 11, 2010

and the band played

The nicest veterans in Schenectady, I thought, the kindest and funniest ones, the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who'd really fought.
Kurt Vonnegut (11 november 1922 -2007), novelist & essayist
quote from Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

so true, so true and kurt knew - as a soldier vonnegut was captured during in the battle of the bulge and became a prisoner of war. unlike many of his fellow p.o.w.s he survived; however, like many other veterans, his wartime experiences turned him into critic of war and a strong voice for peace.

on november 11, 1919 woodrow wilson declared the first armistice day* on the first anniversary of the end of ww I - which was declared as "the war to end all wars" - a claim which was a bit premature, wouldn't you say?

ah, if only....

over the last couple days npr has had a number of excellent stories on today's veterans, this morning the story on homeless women veterans was moving and got me thinking about how things have changed within the military over the years when it comes to men and women in service.

for instance, during the 19 years of the vietnam war 265,000 women served in the military, 11,000 of these women were in active duty - and most of these active duty women were nurses**. today about 20% of people in the armed forces are women; the number of women in service today is estimated to be at 250,000 - which is slightly less than the total for the entirety of the vietnam war - and the roles women play well, they are so many and so varied we could write a book if not an encyclopedia.

thanks to all the women and men in service - today and all the yesterdays stretching back to the war that ended all wars.

photo: vietnam women's memorial. washington dc, june 2009

*in the mid 1950s armistice day was renamed as veterans day

**in 2000 mary reynolds powell's memoir a world of hurt: between innocence and arrogance in vietnam was published. powell, a cleveland area resident, served as an army nurse in vietnam in 1970. this is a powerful book and I highly recommend it if you are interested in looking for a unique insider's view. as with vonnegut, mary's wartime experiences has led to her being a passionate anti-war advocate and strong supporter of her fellow veterans.


june tabor singing eric bogle's haunting ballad the band played waltzing matilda. if you have never heard june or this song, take a couple, sit back and lend an ear....

6 comments:

Everyday Goddess said...

amazing statistics. thanks for posting this tribute!

California Girl said...

thanks kimy. today always makes me sad and I chose not to write about it this year. I always miss my father and his brothers in arms who once lived and told my brother and I a bit about their stories during WWII. I saw the old men today at the tribute in the park. I wanted to hug them. They reminded me so of my dad.

Alan Burnett said...

There is a glorious balance between your opening quote and your final song : a balance that makes me slightly suspicious of way the day has become more of a vicarious celebration rather than a cruel reminder.

Merle Sneed said...

My heart hurts hearing that song.

Daisy said...

The memorial statue was powerful for me - reminding me of Michelangelo's "Pieta".

I spent two years in the WAC. It's where I solidified into a pacifist, especially after seeing the damage war did to people in the military. We don't bother counting the civilians - those who suffer the most in a war zone.

We need to change, or become extinct.

Daisy said...

Just listened to the song ... no words can express....