the multi-faceted COST of participation in combat (16)

(16th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Addison Bross is a retired Lehigh University English prof.

Gadfly:

Only recently have people begun to think realistically about the multi-faceted COST of participation in combat — in the game of killing other human beings.

Setting aside considerations more commonly regarded as “humane,” this phenomenon has its actual economic effect, although — SOMEHOW — its quite real price (e.g., the budget-item of caring for MORALLY INJURED veterans in our medical facilities) has yet to figure in our spreadsheets when we count the cost of war.

Here are a couple of interesting items that start to introduce the topic of moral injury ~

THE MORAL INJURY PROJECT — Syracuse University
MORAL INJURY is the damage done to one’s conscience or moral compass when that person perpetrates, witnesses, or fails to prevent acts that transgress one’s own moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct.
Within the context of military service, particularly regarding the experience of war, “moral injury” refers to the lasting emotional, psychological, social, behavioral, and spiritual impacts of actions that violate a service member’s core moral values and behavioral expectations of self or others (Litz et al., 2009). Moral injury almost always pivots with the dimension of time: moral codes evolve alongside identities, and transitions inform perspectives that form new conclusions about old events.
> http://moralinjuryproject.syr.edu/about-moral-injury/

[M]y principal concern is to put before the public an understanding of the specific nature of catastrophic war experiences that not only cause lifelong disabling psychiatric symptoms but can ruin good character.
— Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (Introduction”)

Addison

a Quaker Marine; go figure (14)

(14th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

ssinsider is known to Gadfly but prefers to remain anonymous.

Gadfly:

My dad was a Marine, too, a Quaker Marine; go figure. He believed that his generation had to save democracy from terrible tyrants and terrifying prejudice and violence. He fought in Okinawa, and was one of two officers in his division who came out of that uninjured and/or alive. This gentle man worked for peace and social justice all of the rest of his life, wanting to save other generations from the horrors of war. He was a role model for so many people, as we heard at his memorial service: he taught by example, by battling bigotry every day in his work and in his personal time, and we learned along side him –his little band of justice seekers. And at the very end of his memorial service, just as he requested, the Marine Hymn was played . . . and we sang along. Semper Fi, indeed.

ssinsider

The “little Tommy” Dineen I never knew (13)

(13th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Do you remember my suggestion back in post #6 to visit — virtually — the Vietnam Wall?

It was an exercise to foster connection with the dead there among my students.

I thought it was a good exercise because of what I found.

I searched my hometown — Lansdowne, Pa.

And found the names of four residents killed in the war. And two I knew.

I was utterly shocked at one: Thomas Gerard Dineen.

“Little Tommy.”

He was “little Tommy” not because his father was named Tommy (which he was) or because he had a big brother.

He was little.

And cute.

Funny. Freckle-faced. Huggable. As Irish-looking as good be.

And angelic: a Sistine chapel cherub.

There’s a picture somewhere in the St. Philomena archives just like this one that I can412094_00035A see in mind’s eye but can’t find.  That’s me carrying the cross, and “Little Tommy” — two grades behind me — would be the acolyte on my right. Looks warm, might have been the May procession. I wish I could find the picture with “little Tommy.” He would have been not much above my belt. I remember looking down on him as we walked. But maybe this picture will at least give you an idea of the context in which I remember him. The dastardly, jeering Highland Avenue “public school” kids were hanging out the windows to our left. It was no role for second-stringers. Mother Bonaventure picked picture-perfect “Little Tommy” to be out-front as we processed!

“Little Tommy” played no sports — which, of course, made you part of the gang — because he was . . . “little.”

I never saw him make a tackle. I never saw him slide into second. I never saw him lead a fast-break.

And yet there he was a 2nd Lt. in the Marines, leading men in battle, and killed August 10, 1967, less that 10 months into his tour of duty, the first of his group to die.

Hill 25 — sporting an “awesome” sign — was named Dineen Hill in his honor.

His valor and the respect of his men must have been “awesome.”

While “Little Tommy” was dying in August 1967, I was reading obscure Puritan sermons in the air-conditioned University of Notre Dame library on the other side of the wall from Touchdown Jesus.

A comrade remembers how Little Tommy “stood tall when Lt., Rowe told you that he didn’t think you had what it took to be a Marine Lieutenant when the board sent you back to be commissioned. You proved him, wrong!! “

Another comrade remembers, “I saved his life, his first night in country. After that we got pretty close, I walked into an ambush, Lt. came to my rescue this time. I have lived with that day for a long time. He was a good officer and I would of followed him any where.”

I remember “Little Tommy” next to me in a procession like the one pictured above. I wish I could find the damn picture and you could see his innocent face. The face I can still see. Looking up at me.

You never know what’s inside a person, never know what a person can do.

“Little Tommy’s” upturned face has, in a sense, become the face of the Vietnam War for me on Memorial Days.

Semper Fi.

 

 

“You’d think humanity would have learned from World War II” (12)

(12th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly:

At today’s Memorial Day Service I met 94-year-old Henry “Hank” Kudzik. Hank was a submariner who served on the Gar and Nautilus. He fought at the Battle of Midway. What an honor for me, as my late father also served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific Theater of World War II. My dad, who was a Machinist Mate 3rd Class, operated the tail gun on a PB4Y2 patrol bomber, and he would have been 95 in August. That’s right around Hank’s age. According to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, as of September 2018 only 496,777 World War II veterans were alive at that point in time, many fewer today, I’m sure. A total of 16,112,566 Americans served in our armed forces in that War. About 415,000 died, many still MIA. My father told me enough so that I would know what war was like. He witnessed Okinawan civilians being driven at bayonet point to jump off of cliffs and commit suicide. There was nothing he could do from his vantage point in the sky. He was on Tinian when the Enola Gay took off on its historic mission, and related that they knew something was up because one plane, a B-29, sat on the tarmac by itself and was surrounded by barbed wire and many MPs. He told me that when they saw the first recon shots and film from Hiroshima, nobody could believe that one weapon had done that much damage. He also related how swift justice could be meted out on other American servicemen when they stole from their own, and how someone caught trying to poison the water supply on a Pacific Island was handled.

War is hell. It’s vicious, unyielding, devastating, and traumatic. You’d think humanity would have learned from World War II. We haven’t.

Dana

“Where have all the young men gone?” (11)

(11th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Thank you Gadfly, Dana, and Peter for reminding us that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance and that war leaves loss and anguish in its wake. I am reminded of lyrics from Pete Seeger’s timeless song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone: When will they ever learn ? When will they ever learn?”

Barbara Diamond

Will you sing along wherever you are right now? Please?

Performed by Pete Seeger

Here performed by Peter, Paul and Mary

Which was just an excuse to hear Mary Travers again. Gadfly is still in love with Mary Travers. Now you know all his secrets.

Gadfly wonders where all the folk singers have gone who, in the “old days,” made us feel the pain of war and social injustice and political bunglings — and brought us together in the act of community singing. Is there not a new generation?

“Let us remember those who set their private lives aside to answer the call of duty” (10)

(10th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Alan Lowcher, Esq. concentrates on real estate and land use law, speaks on the life of Abraham Lincoln, presents history-themed “lessons for lawyers” through the NJ Bar Association, and is a member of several associations promoting a deeper understanding of American history.  

Like Gadfly, Vietnam could be considered “my war” except that my draft number was high enough, the war was winding down, and I was entering my first year of college: there was little chance of being called to serve. I cannot put myself in the shoes of a combat soldier in the field — who among us really can do that unless we’ve “been there” — and we are left to reading about the “war” in books or, if we are lucky, talking to veterans who are willing to talk and share their stories.

I am a student of history — US history in general and military history specifically — and have been privileged beyond words to speak with

  • the grandson of Charles F. Hopkins, Medal of Honor recipient from my home town (Corporal Hopkins rescued a comrade under heavy fire during the battle of Gaines Mill, 1862, and, although twice wounded in the act, carried his fellow soldier to safety), who learned of his grandfather’s service from the old soldier himself;
  • Frank W. Buckles, the last surviving (now deceased) American soldier who served overseas in WWI;
  • Harold A. Miller, Capt. U.S. Army (now deceased), “Battle of the Bulge” combatant commanding an anti-aircraft “flying battery” and, most importantly, the father of my wife;
  • and my father, Robert Lowcher, Petty Officer, Second Class, US Navy (now deceased), who joined the Navy in 1949, who first considered underwater demolition, but when he told his mother about it, she cried so much that he joined the “silent service” instead (his mother cried even harder).

We can only imagine the strength of character, bravery, and moral resolve that these men — and so many men and women who wore the uniform and still wear the uniform — demonstrated. Let us now not glorify war (Captain Miller’s descriptions of what he experienced in WWII would dispel any illusion of the glory of war), but let us remember those who set their private lives aside to answer the call of duty.

Alan