I barely acknowledge it. I don’t hate it like I hate some stupid societal rituals but I don’t feel what I should about it. So, it comes. It goes. I should put on a better show than just buying a poppy, I suppose, but my father didn’t have much time for it. I learned from him. And he should know.
Seaforth Highlanders. Italy. WWII.
My father was wounded badly in a historic battle at Ortona. Hit by heavy artillery. Lay hanging in a tree in the battle ground for three days. Carried out on the dead cart. Received a 100% disability pension. They not only didn’t think he’d live, they thought that if he did, he’d be a vegetable. And they were right for about 15 years – like the plant in the Little Shop of Horrors, though. After that, he got a bit of life back but even then, it was corrupted by PTSD writ HUGE. He was pretty wrecked. Crazy dysfunctional. Dangerous dysfunctional. He was literally a ticking time bomb of violence for two decades.
If you get both your legs blown off in battle, you get an 80% disability pension. His was 100%. Think about that.
I have. I always wondered why 99% wasn’t the highest rating of disability and the top number – 100% – wasn’t reserved for dead. But, what do I know about war? I do know this: my father wouldn’t talk about it. Maybe once or twice. He thought it was all madness. Evil madness. Money madness. He didn’t think freedom or liberty or ‘our way of life’ or any of that had anything much to do with it – not up the ladder, anyway. The soldiers were just kids but they were okay. Governments were all complicit in war. They were NOT OKAY. Whatever was true, he never knew it. It was nothing but a big lie. It was about ego, empire, lies, money and more lies. He was not proud for having served his country. He was not a flag waver. He just survived a lie. He was fodder for a corporate agenda. And he knew it….too late.
Did the country stand behind him? Maybe. Some. Not much from my perspective. He got two years in the hospital (much of it in a coma). He got pounds of drugs for years. Literally. A box the size of a loaf of bread would be delivered every month. I once saw him pouring his pills down the toilet. “Dad, shouldn’t you be taking that stuff?”
“The war almost killed me. This stuff will kill me. And they know it. I flush them to stay alive.”
“Couldn’t you just send them back?”
“Then they would stop my pension.”
I guess I remember. I just remember it differently than I am supposed to. I remember the effects on my father, the effects on my mother, the effects on our splintered family. I distinctly remember the hugely dysfunctional community of veterans and their alcoholism, violence, and inability to cope with civilian life. I think a lot of people suffered other than just the soldiers but theirs was the worst. I feel for them. They were lied to. They were used. And then they were ignored.
Until Remembrance Day. And then they are dead.
OK….I’ve been thinking about that suppressed anger written above. I am NOT as angry over the past diabolical schemes of governments and corporations and their lies so much anymore. It was bad. Our family paid a huge price. I am angry still. But it is over and the past should not own me. The real anger is more fresh and present when I see those who were never there, never suffered, never served, walking somberly and saying platitudes, laying wreaths at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All those rich men. I get angry when I see Trudeau and Trump ‘posing’ and acting. Those bastards make me remember in all the wrong ways.
Tragic at so many levels.
War is never good. Sometimes I even think that a world without we human beings might be a better place, the earth without we human animals might be a more beautiful planet. How do we ever get rid of the evil and greed in us, I don’t know.
It starts with letting go of fear…..trusting…..faith…..not in religion but in something bigger….”Do the birds worry?”
For us at this level, it’s about sharing, giving, helping, mentoring and NOT accumulating, not about keeping or making money.
Can you do that? Even when I know that, I can’t always do that…….
In my younger days, all I ever did was accumulating money. Now that I am older and wiser (hopefully), I am living a minimalistic life, try to make joy from the simplest things. Ultimately, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
That’s it. Exactly. Minimal simple, good. It doesn’t look like the path of success but it turns out to be that. Who knew?
Been following your blog for 5 or more years, thank you.
I have often wondered about your birth family experience.
You riff on lots of our collective cultural experiences, but the void of childhood memories has always left me curious,
I somewhat comprehend now, seems like you got through it better then many would.
The story is long, complicated, disjointed and a smidge sad, if not tragic for my family. But I was fine. My mother was a saint, my father was a walking wound and their road was painful, arduous and poor. I was in 13 different schools before grade nine and I skipped a grade! I was the only white kid in a black ghetto school in San Francisco. Condemed houses. Shacks. The whole goofy, dysfunctional world of poverty, debt, violence and booze. Tons of stories, all bad. But not so much for me. Tougher on my brother and sister.
A kid doesn’t know he’s living on the poor side of some rathole….he just knows the kids he plays with. Looking back I can see some of the darkness that I lived in…like other kids…but.it just was. You always carry some of that. Bottom line: there was very little sunshine til I met Sal. But I am NOT stupid. I took that gift. It’s been great ever since. 50 years soon.
Can I reblog this, Dave? I’ve heard stories of returned soldiers that have expressed similar sentiments.
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Reblogged this on Reflections of An Untidy Mind and commented:
I think it is always worth bearing in mind that there may be alternative views held by service men and women and their families about Remembrance Day and other days commemorating military victories and defeats. I’ve heard these views expressed myself in articles I’ve read and radio interviews I’ve listened to. Some find it particularly galling that these commemorations are held with all due solemnity and fanfare and yet our elected representatives appear to have learnt nothing from these conflicts. Often there is much censure for daring to question the symbolism of the occasions. Here is a reflection on Remembrance Day by David Cox, whose father fought in WWII.
Maddening to seei rich old men send young men off to war. They are the modern gladiators, sent off to be the games pieces of men exerting their power and playing with their war toys. A war fought in defense is one thing. Fought for oil or religious principals, they are cruel folly.
Not just men sending children off to war.
Remember when Margret Thatcher was sinking in the Polls and…. like a gift from heaven….. The Argentinians invaded the Falkland Islands.
Lots of sabre rattling, threats , counter threats, for several months and off to war went the Brits.
How many hundreds died on both sides?
Prime Minister Thatcher ended the war with sky high poll ratings and she carried on for years after that.
True. Sorry about my generalization, but it is rare that a rich old lady sends the young men off to war. Perhaps if there were more women leaders, it would be so, but somehow I feel women generally speaking are less prone to be warlike.
I worked with a Brit in the mid 1990’s who was a Paratrooper that went to the Falklands.
He told a story of landing on one side of the island and marching all night to set up camp before daylight near the settlement they were to observe.
A local Islander/farmer spotted them the next morning and shouted something to them. Waving his arms and shouting and pointing at signs at the edge of the field they were dug into.
The had camped in an Argentinian minefield.
They left…. amazingly . No one hurt
The bizarre random twists of fate.
I think a lot of Vets realized there was no rhyme or reason why they survived and friends died.
Futility and stupidity all rolled into a life or death “game”.
I’m sure the Generals in Argentina werent expecting the reaction they got for invading Los Malvinas but that handed Thatcher an unbelievable Public Relations campaign.
I wonder if countries with dictators underestimate Female leaders.
Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, Hillary Clinton.
None of whom I would want to have as an opponent in a dispute..
I don’t think the common denominato for warmonger is gender. Wars are started and waged by the rich. The acquisitors. They are the empire builders and defenders. And the serfs, peasants and fodder do their bleeding and dying.
It is so very sad, the suffering of those who served in good faith and the many lives lost in more ways than one. I still dream of a world where soldiers from all sides will see their leaders’ powergames for what they are and find their own peaceful solutions, swapping recipes and playing football. Thinking of and your parents at this time 🕊
Thanks for that one Dave. More stories like this should be told. I do not have a blog, but I’ll share it with others. An important message.
I’ll bet you dad did not even drive around with “Veteran” tags on his car.
No, he didnt. Nor did he wear or keep his medals. Nor did he attend reunions or do anything except frequent the Legion. For the beer. He’d sit there surrounded by weirdos, characters and cougars not hearing very much since one side of his head carried a non functioning ear. After my mother died, some ‘old doll’ would sit and flirt and try to tempt him with a homemade dinner but, most often he didn’t hear the invitation. Those things rarely progressed anywhere but, when they did, it was always hilarious..
I have to say the ceremony in Powell River is very respectful and resident veterans are the center of it all. It is well attended by the public even when the weather isn’t good. – Margy
I appreciate that. I do think we have to remember. I do think we have to respect. I am just a bit ambivalent about ceremony, about politicians, about ritual, that’s all. I don’t trust ’em, is what I am saying. I don’t believe them. It is just more lies, more hypocrisy. But the rest of it is OK. The old vets aren’t posing. Their families aren’t celebrating or exploiting the moment. They are there for all the right reasons. It’s the scheduled, made-for-TV spectacle of it, I guess.
I think about my parents. All the time. Lots to think about, too. But there is no ‘show’. No spectacle. Hell, until now I have never even written about it.
But I am not saying my way is the right way. I am just saying that any other way would be the wrong way – for me.
It is ironic that the politicians that have no military experience are the first to send in the military.
President “Bonespurs” Trump is a very dangerous man in very dangerous times.
The Chinese are in the ascendant and very few people today remember the horrors of world war…..
With the technology today the Four Horsemen will have free reign over the planet.
Hows the bullion, bullets, beans and bumwad stockpile Dave?
We’re not a services family, and we never lost anyone close to us in the two world wars, so it’s probably impertinent to comment. However, ceremonies commemorating those who lost their lives provide an opportunity to teach the young about this part of their past. Admitedly, it’s changing nothing as things stand, but if they know and understand nothing of past conflict, young people don’t even have the opportunity to strive for change.
I am sure that’s true. I believe we have to teach the next generation, I really do. See response to Margy. I just dont think politicians, pomp and ceremony do that. In fact, I think they teach the opposite – faith in leaders, false patriotism, propaganda, celebrity and, of course, the irony of everyone alive dressed nicely with 21 gun salutes when the victims and their families died in mud, blood and pain. Wrong message. I agree with respect and remembrance – just not the way we do it.
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Thank you for telling your story. I hear you about the generations of trauma re: war etc. and the whole dysfunctional ball of wax. Thank you.
I believe your father and you has it right. A bunch of immature ego driven assholes that create war to win power and money. And where are they when the bombs are dropped… why safely in their bomb shelter while the young men get sent to war. Real brave…. the thing that bothers me the most is the the stupidity of most people still put them guys on a peddle-stone. How stupid can they be in this day in age to be so nieves to believe everything these assholes say. That to me is the madding part. I guess everybody is to busy to care which is just where the government wants you. Well it’s up to every generation to look after the liberties and freedoms or the next generation won’t have them. Sorry but we didn’t march down the street and stand up to these guys. Duffy and all the ass misused their expense account,,, millions gone and they walk scot free on the tax payers dollar. They will send our youth to war with no remorse of the death and pain and suffering they caused.
It sounds like more than a few feel this way. I acknowledge that there are bullies, tyrants aggressors and terrorists. I acknowledge war as a last resort of self defense. But I do not acknowledge it as part of an aggressive theft of resources which most of it has been. Weapons of mass destruction? War on Terror? Vietnam? Gimme a break! The test? Maybe….
….if the economy booms, your country is part of the problem? If your economy suffers then maybe it was legitimate self defense.
Duffy was pretty bad but only a small frog in a deep and large swamp. I don’t even hate the swampdwellers. They were born to it. Like Justin, Trump, Bush et al.. But I sure as hell don’t want to die defending their elite privilege.