December 2007

Showing respect on Veterans' Day

By Galen Larson

Veterans’ Day has come and gone. The small, guilty parades have passed. The old veterans have been trotted out in their wheelchairs and helped into flag-draped convertibles attended by pretty young girls, all waving to the crowd. Those that remember where to put their hand or how to salute the flag do so as the Honor Guard passes, and we hear hollow speeches by politicians who didn’t serve, extolling the sacrifices and bravery of those who did.

Then it is home to the barbecue and on to the Veterans’ Day sales! I have always resented those sales and thought it a strange way for the capitalistic system to honor those who gave their all in foreign countries so that the system can then come in and profit from cheap labor to bring us inferior foreign products. One would think that on that One Day designated for paying respect to our fallen youth the shops could close their doors and forgo profit.

As I remember, this was first called Armistice Day to commemorate lost lives and the War to End All Wars. Businesses closed; people went to church and made their way to cemeteries to place wreaths and flags on the graves of these defenders of freedom. These young sons or daughters lost too soon — which of them could have made great strides in medical research or invented a combustion engine that did not pollute the air? Which could have become great statespersons, politicians or leaders, people who could bring about the world peace that every beauty-pageant queen seems to want? We will never know because they are the unknown and forgotten, except for One Day of the year when we celebrate their heroic deeds with great sales.

I would be pleased when I am to be remembered if they would have a halfprice sale on manure. Now, don’t laugh — what a tribute! It is used to grow beautiful flowers and to make our vegetables nutritious. So don’t underestimate the power of manure. It is just when it is turned into bullshit coming from the speeches of our bought-and-paid-for politicians that it becomes harmful. Blasted at us from the parade stands to make us feel guilty to the point we can hardly wait to cut and run to the great sales bringing us merchandise from countries where our youths have given their lives so that the corporate entrepreneurs can make deals with dictators we agreed to leave in power. Freedom, as they say, is not free, nor is it cheap, but we have made it cheap with the sales promos and ballyhoo of our corporations at a time when we should be paying tribute to the brave and contemplating the savageries of war.

I am a veteran, not of a war, but of a “police action,” as it was deemed by politicians, but it did the same thing: It killed our young, made whores out of young girls, killed fathers and sons, and destroyed the homes and businesses of civilians. After 53,000 casualties we walked away and began to trade with the enemy, China.

They slipped us in to Pusan, South Korea, in the dark of the night in a sampan from Japan, our past enemy, on Thanksgiving Eve. My Thanksgiving dinner was in a mess kit: turkey, potatoes, dressing, cranberry sauce, and a half a peach, topped with a tasty brown gravy over the whole thing. It was prepared by military cooks under harsh conditions, not by private contractors overcharging the American taxpayers.

Let’s face it: The only winners in a war are the corporations. One would think that One Day out of the year they could close their doors and pretend they care about the fallen and maimed veterans.

You will not see me at any of their mattress sales. I’ll be hanging my head in shame for those who go, and asking myself, Why war?

Galen Larson lives in rural Montezuma County, Colo.