End-of-year madness arrived this week even before the snowfall.
Before it blots out memory, here are a couple of words about Veterans Day.
The recent holiday was not widely observed when I was in junior high and high school, at least not as widely as it is now. There may have been a small parade in my hometown or a salute at our local armory, but there wasn’t much more in the way of ceremony.
There were a lot of reasons for that. The entry and course of the Vietnam War was chief among them.
What helped turned the tide really didn’t have much to do with any given Veterans Day. It was when the POWs came home after captivity.
Many of my high school mates and their families got caught up in those televised reunions. Well-wishes for the men and their families who had suffered for years were sincere. The improved vibe seemed to extend through all generations.
If one thing has changed for the better since Vietnam, or perhaps because of it, it’s how military veterans are viewed.
It is hard to argue that professional treatment of disorders related to service has not gotten better. The errors of that war combined with its length and unsatisfying conclusion eventually brought attention to things like PTSD, other mental health issues, exposure to chemicals, alcoholism, drug addiction and difficulties of getting back into civilian life.
The Gulf War and the two wars fought since Sept. 11, 2001, with casualties coming home from all, have certainly heightened awareness and one hopes sympathy for the plight of those who served. Though its veterans are long gone, this year’s centennial of the Armistice which ended World War I also drew attention to the horrors of all wars.
But not everyone is at ease with the pomp and circumstance now seen around Nov. 11.
My dad, a World War II guy, often ponders what the point of it all is. His take is that now that it’s over, it ought to be respectfully left in the past.
The local American Legion or VFW, not sure which, again brought a Veterans Day presentation to the complex where my dad lives.
What they presented was much like what we see here, at least as he explained it. That is, a presentation of the colors, some speeches in honor of service to country and an honorary rifle volley.
The flag was also folded with a recitation of what each of 13 folds means. I didn’t know each fold had a significance until this year. My dad had never heard of it either. We both thought it was for the original 13 colonies.
But he was bothered by the continued references to God and that it emphasizes traditional attributes of womanhood. Also troublesome was that spent shell casings from the rifles were given to residents, including my dad.
I made mention of the shell casings to an Army veteran who, like my dad, is at best ambivalent about his service. He noted it was especially troubling that items used in killing were distributed as souvenirs.
I imagine neither man would have cared for the Veterans Day assembly I covered at a local middle school. Though the National Guard keynote speaker had been deployed five times, three times overseas, his presentation leaned more toward recruiting pitch than oral history.
However, I’m sure both men would have appreciated the respectful WWI Armistice observance which concluded with the tolling of Bucknell University chapel bells. President John Bravman spoke of WWI as the opening bookend to the period which created the modern age.
Also speaking was David Del Testa, a history professor, who has worked to make WWI relevant to today’s students. Mouhamadou Diagne, Bucknell Muslim chaplain, offered the benediction and wore a red hat similar to what his grandfather wore as he fought along side of the French.
Chapel bells tolled at 11 a.m. on Nov., 11, the time the Armistice took effect. Church bells in town also marked the hour, though I did not hear them.
In closing, the bitterness which lingers among some people who served is understandable. Wishing others would have a change of heart of mind is futile. Instead, I’ve come to accept where they are as evidence of how deep a war wound may go.
FYI: The symbolism of the 13 folds according to the official blog of the American Legion Auxiliary are life, eternal life, the departed, trust in God, country right or wrong, the Pledge of Allegiance, the armed forces, honor of Mother, womanhood’s contribution to character, father, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the Christian Holy Trinity and the motto of the United States, “In God We Trust.”
Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.