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

“I saw Vietnam for real today” (8)

(8th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

Here’s a poem my son and I published back in 1995 (in a journal called Echoes Magazine, a total of 17 issues from 1993 to 1997), written by a young college student, Lisa J. Parker — one of several of her poems we published. She went on to win a coveted spot in Penn State’s graduate program for writers (she was 1 of only 2 poets admitted that year) and has since published 1 or 2 books of her poetry. The drawing is by Ferrilyn Sourdiffe, which we used both with the poem and as the cover.

Peter

“we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” (7)

(7th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Abraham Lincoln said it best in his Gettysburg address:

“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Steve Thode

Visit “The Wall” (6)

(6th in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

The Vietnam War was Gadfly’s war.

It seems like we are always at war.

Everybody has a “my war.”

I had a number. But I was “old.” “They” said I was unlikely to be drafted. I wasn’t.

But I have always felt a weird kind of guilt.

Maybe that’s why I spent several years on The Vietnam Wall Controversy project, which I described thusly:

How should we remember a war that we “lost”? You may have been tear-choked as you touched or watched others touch “the Wall” at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the most visited war memorial in our nation’s capital. Yet, this seemingly god-given shrine wears political feet of clay, and behind it lies a fierce controversy that re-opened the wounds of the war the memorial was designed to heal. Experience the evolution of the Vietnam Wall controversy by reading through a chronological list of documents divided into five rounds.

I wanted to provide the primary sources that would enable students to understand why the desire to memorialize the 58,000 Vietnam war dead was fraught with such controversy.

They were born after the Wall was completed. They missed the fun. They missed an education on the kind of war that can be fought over the bodies of those who died in war.

The controversy over the Vietnam Memorial (“The Wall”) was not a pretty one.

But first I had to get these students “involved.” They knew next to nothing about the Vietnam War. Politics insured that it was virtually unstudied in high school.

As a warm-up exercise, I tried to get them to personalize the names on the Wall. To make a connection.

I would send them to a virtual Wall website such as The Wall-USA.

And ask them to make a connection with a family member, if any, killed in the war.

And ask them to make a connection, albeit an artificial one, with one or more of the dead by searching by their name (anybody with your name killed in the war?), their last name, anybody born on their birthday, anybody killed on their birthday (or another important day), anybody from their hometown, someone on a certain panel of the Wall (their lucky number, for instance), someone killed early in the war, someone killed late — especially at the very end, etc. and etc.

Then look at whatever other info is there: for instance, how long were they in Vietnam before killed?

Then look at the personal comments left by visitors, if any. Which can be wrenching. And marked by longevity.

And, finally, then leave a comment.  (That function is now disabled on this site, unfortunately.) Perhaps a word of thanks. A salute.

Dana is remembering Jack Edward Derrico, killed 3 weeks and 1 day into his tour at age 20.

Age 20.

Gadfly invites you visit the Wall this Memorial weekend.

And find someone to remember.

Whitman’s “Dirge for Two Veterans” set to music (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on Memorial Day)

Natalie Foster is a retired Lehigh chemistry professor who is happy now that she can wear t-shirts and jeans every day and not just on weekends

Gadfly:

Ralph Vaughan Williams set that Whitman poem and several other texts to music for SATB choir in a work called ‘Dona Nobis Pacem.’ The way he set ‘…son and father dropt together…’ is one of the many places that can bring one to tears. It is a powerful piece.

[Doing poor man’s research on wikipedia, Gadfly found: “Dona nobis pacem (English: Grant us peace) is a cantata written by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1936 and first performed on 2 October of that year. The work was commissioned to mark the centenary of the Huddersfield Choral Society. Vaughan Williams produced his plea for peace by referring to recent wars during the growing fears of a new one. His texts were taken from the Mass, three poems by Walt Whitman, a political speech, and sections of the Bible.” Here is a presentation by the London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. See approx mins. 15:30-26:45 for the dirge.]

Shifting gears for a moment — I want to thank you for your posts about the local election. I found them and your comments to people who raised issues to be balanced and informative. I have never felt so well prepared to make choices at the ballot box for local contests. As the bard wrote: thanks and thanks and ever thanks!

A fan of Gadfly (and also of Conan the Grammarian!) —

Natalie

No glory in war (2)

(2nd 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:

Watch the Lou Reda DVDs, “World War II in HD” and “The Air War in HD” [see link below]. I don’t think any other production can match these in terms of the presentation of reality, tragedy, destruction and humanity lost. The storyline wraps itself around a number of World War II veterans. When it was produced in 2009 only 10% of the 16 million who served in our military during that war were still alive. Nearly all of those featured, among them Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” fame who flew with the U.S. 8th Air Force over Europe as a writer for “Stars and Stripes,” have passed away since. You’ll find absolutely no glory in war if you view this series.

Dana

Gadfly says pull up your Big Boy and Big Girl pants and watch even only the first 10 minutes. The stupefying anguish of the incident recounted minutes 9-10 will never be forgotten.

“My heart gives you love,” a Walt Whitman poem for Memorial Day (1)

(1st in a series of posts on Memorial Day)
DIRGE FOR TWO VETERANS
by Walt Whitman
Read by the Gadfly

THE last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish’d Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

LO, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key’d bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

Now nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o’er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin’d,
(‘Tis some mother’s large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

What poems, text excerpts, film clips should we be remembering this Memorial Day weekend? Send Gadfly your suggestions. Send Gadfly your recordings.