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June 07, 2014


Beth, thank you for this thoughtful post.

I was impressed by Anthony Swofford's brutally honest exploration in Jarhead, and his confession that what pumps soldiers up for war includes even anti-war movies. Not that readers of Chris Hedges should be surprised by this. I wonder what the more unwilling recruits did though to prepare themselves, especially for something like the Normandy landings where they were literally sitting ducks for a while. Mostly, I think, it must be "you have a job to do and you try and do it before the other buggers kill you first." It seems to have been about loyalty to your immediate buddies. Seeing them fall is something I have a hard time imagining.

My grandfather fought in WW1 and didn't talk about it either. I'm reading about that war -- which was certainly not a just war, if these things can be said to fall on a spectrum -- and trying to understand. What does seem to be universal is that there's a point, sometimes not known until years later, where war becomes inevitable. May we all become more alert to that point and instruct our stupid leaders to back away.

My father fought in the Vietnam war, was imprisoned in a concentration camp in the North of Viet-Nam. My mother came to this country not knowing for a long time where he was, while struggling to rear seven children, not knowing a word of English. She won't meet her husband again until some fourteen years later, the very year she died of cancer. My father never spoke of the war either. The drums of war continue to roll on, louder and louder, generation after generation, beaten by politicians and those who mostly never send their loved ones to battle nor suffer the consequences of war.

With you all the way here, Beth.

Thank you for this, Beth.

Amazing post Beth. Your dad is an incredible guy. Every time we met I was always impressed with how full of life he is and what a wonderful sense of humor he has. Knowing this about him just goes to show how strong he is to not have let his military experience weaken him. I know you must be proud of him and happy he is your dad. Enjoy your time at the lake with him and please tell him hi for us!

Beautifully meditated and written, thank you Beth.

Oh Beth! This is a truly extra-ordinary post. It is so good to read about the reality behind the egoistic, jingoistic, falsities that all too often are passed off as 'truth'. Thank you for this post from the heart, and thank heavens that man who was to be your father survived.

Thank you for this post Beth. The words and the images are something I will be thinking about for a long time.

Bravo Beth!

These men had to be incredible. Your dad is lucky to have survived even the Normandy invasion which people nowadays don't realise was actually a 77-day battle to get inland... fighting literally across fields and hedges and ditches. Casualties ran at around 6,000 men per day. So much focus is put on the actual D-Day but the fight after that was brutal. My dad was a pilot in the RAF during the war. I can't believe sometimes that he was still only 22 when the war finished.

Beautiful writing, thank you. Those images make me weep as well.

My biology teacher participated in the Normandy invasion. A German by birth, he nonetheless fought for his adopted country. This experience, I now realize, damaged him physically and mentally. He saw men killed all around him, including a soldier standing right next to him who had his head blown off.
Almost all of my male teachers and some of the women, as well as my father, were WW II vets.
This is nothing to eulogize, as far as I'm concerned. It was all ghastly.

I'm in agreement with all you wrote, Beth. The objectors to conscientious objectors often refuse to consider that there are alternatives to blind obedience and that refusing to kill doesn't make an individual a coward - on the contrary.
Your father seems like a wonderful man and you're both fortunate to have each other.

Thank you, Beth- a moving memoir and reflection. My father was much the same, and as Vietnam began, up he surprised some of my friends by his ardent anti-war sentiment (however, nearly all of them changed their minds). One of the effects of spending four years in the South Pacific was that he resisted any significant travel after that, outside North America.

Glorification of war - no! But how about the glorification of human endeavour during war? The ambiguities multiply.

Leaving out politicians and statesmen who get us into wars and concentrating only on those who do the fighting and the risking. Reminding ourselves that the choice is not necessarily between pacifism and fighting; many who fight do so as a result of an honest and entirely moral decision backed up by an advanced willingness to die on behalf of this decision. At what stage does a hero become a fanatic?

We may say that people who fight wars fom conviction are misled but surely this sets their intelligence and moral rectitude on a lower level than ours. Should war be avoided at all costs or are there “good” wars. Going to war may occur under a democratic gloss; the majority saying “yes”. But suppose all such huge decisions were followed by a mandatory referendum asking “Was it worth it?”

Group Captain Leonard Cheshire won a Victoria Cross (the UK's equivalent of the US's Medal of Honour) under slightly unusual circumstances. By acting as a “pathfinder” to bomber groups, flying over enemy territory alone night after night, for several years. After the war he converted to catholicism and formed a charity with his wife Sue Ryder. What he did didn't justify war, of course,but...

Well said.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.