By Nathan Barton
The pictures are horrific. The stories, even more so. The count of the dead is mindboggling, at least to Americans.
D-Day, Normandy Invasion, 75 years ago. The last survivors, last veterans of that dangerous and desperate invasion are now in their 90s or beyond. Their children are usually retired by now. Their grandchildren, for the most part, didn’t listen to their stories. Assuming that the veterans were willing to tell any stories.
But we can still read the books, see the movies, and view the pictures. Pictures and movies that folks back on the Home Front didn’t see during the war years. Horrible, memory-searing, even in the usual black and white. Even worse in color: the debris of war, including the formerly-human debris.
Recently, the Department of the Army sent out messages asking veterans to provide some feedback on their impressions of their time in the service: what did they feel, learn, and experience.
Supposedly, the Army was expecting to get comments about the education gained in service and through the GI Bill afterwards. Or about the friendships and bonding and opportunities they gained.
And supposedly, the Army was shocked to get thousands of responses telling them about the limbs and friends and time lost, the bitterness, the agony of PTSD, the mental and emotional anguish suffered by veterans who come back to “the world” from postings and duty in the Sandbox or the ‘Stan or some dump in Africa or Asia. The media made a big deal about this, and how the Army’s plan to have lots of sound bites for recruiting use backfired.
I discount all that as garbage. Stupid as DACs (Department of the Army Civilians sometimes are. AND how stupid so many political appointees and Deep State bureaucrats are. There is no way anyone could have expected anything but what they got back. The fact that they went ahead and did it may reflect stupidity. Or it may tell us that someone somewhere down the chain of command kind of knew what to expect and that is exactly what they wanted to happen.
Today, there are fewer and fewer Americans with military service, let alone duty in a combat zone. And there are fewer and fewer with either friends or relatives who have served in the past 30+ years of continuous combat and occupations around the world. And too many believe the propaganda. Either the propaganda of big recruiting billboards and sales pitches made in high school and college classrooms. Or the pitches made by politicians and their supporters (not just on the regressive, tranzi side) who look at serving military in the same way they’d look at something they have to scrap off the bottom of their shoes after walking through an urban park.
So maybe, someone reasoned, we can get enough to paint a more realistic picture of what veterans of combat have gone through. Of what people who served and fought really think about their time in uniform.
And it is appropriate. And needed.
We just finished remembering the 100th anniversary of the “Great War” – the First World War. With virtually none of the survivors, the veterans, of that war able to tell us what it was like. Not in person, although there are thousands of recordings and writings to share that with us, starting from nearly a century ago right up to the 1990s. It was bad. Very bad.
We still have a few WW2 veterans, like those remembering what they went through and what they lost in Normandy and the Hurtgen, and Iwo and CBI between 1939 and 1945. And about the same who remember the horrors of Frozen Chosen (Korea). Far too many DO remember firsthand the mess in Indochina, and even Panama and Grenada and Kosovo and elsewhere.
And they (when they are willing to talk, and when people are willing to listen) tell us the same thing that the vets of Mesopotamia (Iraq), Afghanistan, Somalia, and all the other recent places do. It was bad, mind-shattering and too often body-shattering. A horror that they will never forget, even if they descend into madness.
There is a reason that even the politicians recognize a debt owed to veterans. No matter how stupidly, how ineptly, how cruelly they try to pay it back. Why? Because they recognize that what was done to the men (yes, and women, too, especially now) is something that cannot be repaired or healed. It is the cost of “doing government.” But if they don’t at least try, the consequences would be grim – for government, too.
The butcher’s bill on D-Day was paid almost immediately by many: the thousands dead there on the water’s edge and on the cliffs and more. But even that was followed by the suffering of many shattered, maimed, and disabled (physically and mentally), for years. Today, the immediate butcher’s bill is much smaller, at least on the American side. Fewer killed outright. But the cost of wounded, injured and disabled is as high or higher than what those huge old armies of WW2 suffered. And lasts even longer.
And the government and the politicians and the bureaucrats – even if once in a while they are also the veterans and survivors of the combat zones – still don’t know how to heal and how to pay back what their actions (and those of their predecessors) took from young men and women. And they will, stupidly, do the same thing to the next generation, the next cohort. Because that is what government does. And why we don’t want it – and really, don’t need it.
War is going to be with us until the end. But it is also an evil that we need to avoid as much as possible. D-Day should remind us of that. Even necessary wars, to preserve or regain our liberty, protect the weak, defend our homes and families, are evil. Remember, remember.