On this Memorial Day I honor those who died no matter whether I think it was worth it…

May 26, 2014

I get Memorial Day and Veterans Day mixed up but I know this is Memorial Day, the third and final day of the long Memorial Day weekend when there are parades, and there are ceremonies, often at cemeteries, with men wearing those military-style overseas caps, American Legion and such, and flags flying and so on. In its present form, Memorial Day is to honor all of our war dead (men and women) in all of our wars — and of course it is also a time off for workers and a great sales opportunity for stores, and a recreational opportunity at lakes and camp and picnic grounds and other such places.

There are some who see all the flag flying as so much jingoism. Certainly our penchant for having America first has gotten us into all kinds of troubles overseas through the years. And sometimes it seems one might be forced to ask whether it was worth it. I mean, as an example, why did we have to join the fray in Europe’s war in World War I? We were in no imminent danger. And, as a matter of fact, I have always wondered why Abraham Lincoln was lauded for standing up to the southern rebellion, otherwise known as the American Civil War or the War Between the States (for those in the South). I mean all that death and destruction might have been avoided had he simply let the South go its way — it might have well decided for practical reasons to come back into the fold decades later.

But one can try to rewrite or re-do history in his or her mind and it is useless.

The fact is that on this planet there is a constant struggle among humans for land and resources which are finite and throughout our history it has led to war. And some are called to fight them and some go on their own accord and some do not. Often those who do not are the ones who order those who do to go in the first place. And the non-fighters are often the biggest fans of the fight.

But regardless of the politics of it all, I join in honoring all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, no matter whether I think in hindsight that it was all worth it.Image

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On this Memorial Day observance I honor one of too many Vietnam War dead…

May 24, 2009

In honor of U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Eugene Huggins, born: July 12, 1930, Conway, S.C. Died: June 23, 1970, Quang Tri, South Vietnam

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This weekend, and on Monday officially, we observe Memorial Day in honor of all of those military veterans who have died in service to their country, irrespective of the politics that may have put them where they were when they died.

Soldiers and Sailors and Marines of course have their own opinions, but in the battle zone they are doing what they were ordered by their country to do. They are doing their duty. And they all deserve respect.

I, myself, have had strong opinions on this nation’s war policies since I was a teenager. I concluded at some point that the Vietnam War was not a good policy on our part. But I never had any disrespect for anyone who served in it and certainly not for anyone of our own who died as the result of it. I served in the United States Army during the height of the Vietnam War, but was fortunate enough not to be stationed in the war zone. I was stationed in Germany as part of the NATO forces.

At the time I got my orders for Germany I am embarrassed to admit that I was so wrapped up in myself and my own problems that while I appreciated the fact that I was going to Germany rather than Vietnam, I don’t think I fully appreciated the enormity of it all. As far as my own personal feelings on the war at that time, I think I held the opinion of perhaps a majority of Americans. I was unsure about whether we really should be there, but at the same time, since we had already committed ourselves and already committed so many American lives, and it was apparent our government was hell bent on carrying the war on, despite internal debate, we ought to give it all we got and get the thing over with. Instead, the political leaders wrangled and held back the military. The only thing worse than sending someone in harm’s way for his or her country is doing so and then not giving them all the support they need.

But, anyway, as I waited for that airplane to Germany, I heard over the loudspeaker a call for a flight to Bien Hoa, South Vietnam. I watched soldiers dressed in Class A Khaki uniforms climb up one of those portable boarding stairs into the commercial jet airliner. And today I wonder how many of them came back. Actually, probably most of them did. But as fate will have it, a select few probably did not.

Sometime after I arrived in Germany, I came to realize that the probability of me getting orders for Vietnam was just about nil. At the time, the only soldiers in Germany getting orders for Vietnam were, strangely enough, some mechanics (so much equipment in Vietnam) and career soldiers, often on normal rotation.

So, far from harm’s way, I spent my days trying to look busy at the tank park in Baumholder, Germany.

Sometimes we would have readiness tests we called “alerts”. One early morning when we were having one of those alerts I was standing out of the hatch at the top of my tank wearing a crash helmet on the top of my head.

A black sergeant from another platoon was yelling something at me. I could not hear him because the helmet covers one’s ears. So I ignored him. He crawled up on my tank and gave me what for. I decided that I did not care for him in the least.

Sometime later he had come to the end of his tour in Germany and got orders for Vietnam.

Not long afterwards my company got word back that he had been killed in Vietnam.

That sergeant was no friend of mine. But I remember him joking with others. I remember his fondness for an older model car he kept polished and called the “Blue Goose”. I know he was married, and I think he had children.

A record of Vietnam War dead available on the internet shows that he began his tour in Vietnam on May 16, 1970 and was killed on June 23, 1970, as the result of enemy fire. He was just shy of his 40th birthday and just shy of a 20-year military retirement I am sure.

While he may have been no friend of mine, he is a veteran who deserves and has my utmost respect.

I salute you Staff Sergeant Eugene Huggins.

P.s.

And, of course, we salute all of the fallen from all wars.


Afterthoughts, Memorial Day…

May 27, 2008

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

If you don’t tear up and get a lump in your throat and want to salute the flag while attending a Memorial Day ceremony, well I don’t know what to say. I did.

At my wife’s urging, we attended a ceremony in our home town. There was a color guard, drill team, a fighter jet flyover, speeches, patriotic music, the national anthem, and even a parachutist who jumped in.

What got me all teary eyed was when they played “Over Hill, Over Dale,” the Army theme song. And isn’t that kind of silly? I mean even though I joined the Army, I was not, to say the least, an enthusiastic soldier, much of the time. I served in Germany for most of my tour, even though it was during the Vietnam War. No, it was not the Army I was feeling nostalgic or whatever about, it was being part of something. If it were a bunch of people just like me that we were supposed to recognize, it wouldn’t be worth the bother. But I was there along with everyone else to honor those who should be honored. I am just grateful that I could have been an inconsequential part of the whole thing.

But it all makes me so frustrated. Here I come back home all fired up with patriotism and the pride of what our flag, the Red White and Blue, represents (or should). But I feel there is some kind of disconnect. Our leaders seem to say one thing and do another. They spur us on to fight or support the fight for freedom. But they then quibble about how best to do it (and expecting the troops to get it done all the while). Send in more troops, pull out troops, send more in or hand it over to someone else. Meanwhile, the troops on the ground (or in the air, for that matter), men and women, are left to fight on while the so called leaders wring their hands or give silly speeches saying we have already won.

Here at home we have polls. The public is growing tired of the war (or maybe they are not). I suspect that most (yes most) are actually rather oblivious to it all. Life goes on here.

Come on folks. If we really are in a fight for freedom and our survival, then we need to get on with it. If not, then how did we get suckered into going over there in the first place? (Oh, that’s right. You were to busy with your own life. Wasn’t someone else supposed to be watching that?).

It seems that rightly or wrongly we have committed ourselves to the fight over there. Maybe we need to get serious and consolidate our gains, secure what we have and hold it at that. We have taken over Iraq and I suppose Afghanistan (you don’t hear much about that one) too. We do have troubles holding on to all of it, but with a total commitment of forces we can do it.

The Democratic candidates have pledged to get us disengaged, although they have hedged on that a bit if you read the fine print. The Republican candidate wants to fight for as long as it takes, but I’m sure he could find wiggle room on that one too (it’s time to hand it over to the Iraqis. Remember what happened when we handed it over to the Vietnamese? Well, in case you forget, there was a lot of bad stuff, executions and retraining camps. Years of misery and then they got over it. And maybe that’s what will happen this time, or maybe this is different).

 

I have written on all of this many times. I think a lot of different ways all at once on it all. But I am not in charge. And thank goodness for that. But leadership is what we need now.

We need someone or some people who know and can articulate what our exact mission is over there and come up with a clear and reasonable proposal on how to accomplish it. Spelling out every detail would not be practicable, necessary, nor wise. But we need more than vague generalities and platitudes.

I think someone who could articulate a clear and convincing and doable sounding plan might be worth voting for.

It’s hard to mix complicated politics with natural, instinctive feelings of patriotism, and I am glad that the speakers kind of over simplified things (we’re fighting “the war on terror,” as if such a thing could be won and won for how long?), and I didn’t mind that they overlooked the fact that we are not always one hundred percent correct in all of our ventures (well meaning I can only hope).

I wanted a day to feel good about things. I saw our flag. I heard the speeches and thought of our fallen veterans and those still fighting. I heard the music, and I watched and heard the jet fighter fly over. And that parachutist flying the national banner with him landed right on target, feet flat on the ground. I got what I came for.

Thanks dear for asking me to go.

 

Postscript: My quick research tells me “Over Hill, Over Dale” is not technically the name of the Army theme song and that the lyrics have been changed from the original version of what was called the “Caisson Song”. But everyone has heard it that way. Sometimes you just have to go with what really is.


Memorial Day…

May 25, 2008
(copyright ) 
 
The WALTHER REPORT
By Tony Walther
 
It’s confusing because there is more than one day that celebrates the contributions of veterans, but this is Memorial Day, which specifically honors those who have sacrificed their lives in all of our wars.
 
Fortunately for my family, each of the three sons has served in the military, but each of us is alive. Dad missed World War I because he was too young, and World War II because he was too old by that day’s standards. But he was a cadet in high school. You should see the photo of him and his brother in their campaign hats and those ballooned trousers.
 
My oldest brother put in 20 years in the Navy. I joined the Army, serving something over three years altogether. My other brother was nabbed by Uncle Sam between college and law school and did a tour in Vietnam with the Army.
 
But this day is to honor those who did not return.
 
We’re flying a flag we purchased the other day. Put it up right away, and I think we’ll keep it up. Don’t need a holiday as an excuse to fly it.
 
I always say I don’t follow a standard political ideology, but anyone who knows me realizes that I tend to be progressive (the neocons would call me liberal, liberal, liberal) .
No, usually I’m no flag waver. And isn’t there a saying: “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”?
 
On the other hand, I have no use for flag burning or desecration of any kind. I see nothing good coming out of that. I would not forsake my country or dishonor it for anything. I may think that others, some politicians for instance, do, but I’m not going to stoop to their level to make a point.
 
And why do people sacrifice their lives for their country? Sometimes they may be just accidental heroes. I mean no disrespect there. Some just feel that strongly. They have a sense of duty. Some were forced into the situation. Remember, we used to have the draft.
 
In the end, it makes no difference. Dead is dead. Maybe they took one of our spots, so we could live.
 
If you’ve read my columns you know that I do not exactly support the war over in the Middle East. I have said, though, that if we must fight it, then we owe it to ourselves and our troops to go full out, win it and get out.
 
While I wholeheartedly believe in supporting our troops, I find the slogan “support our troops” to be mindless jingoism. It is a rhetorical device to make someone who does not support a war policy to have to commit to supporting it, because if one doesn’t, then one must be not in support of the troops in battle. And that would be shameful.
 
Well, Mr. and Mrs. Bumper Sticker, I do support our troops and think they need the supplies, the armor, and top medical and education benefits. I also think the policy that sends them where they are is a totally different matter. So if I were to say, for instance, that I am against the war, I could still rightfully proclaim to be in support of the troops. But you wouldn’t buy that. But I can, perhaps, think more complex thoughts than you, Mr. And Mrs. Bumper Sticker.
 
However, there is no complexity to my unwavering reverence to all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to their country. They were not allowed to decide the whys, they just performed the duty that was thrust upon them. Even those in our current all-volunteer military are doing simply what they are obligated to do. Someone has to fill the ranks. To all I say: Thank You!

To blah or not to blah…

May 24, 2008

So Mitt Romney’s looking to buy some ocean front property in La Jolla, Ca. He’s on McCain’s short list for VP. And it’s speculated he also might be establishing residency to run for Governor of California. Please say it isn’t so. Even though I don’t care for Mitt, I had earlier, before I started this blogging thing, predicted Romney would go far. He’s a smooth talker. I did not realize the Morman thing would cause him problems. Anyway he’s at it again. I have more to say on McCain VP selection later in this blog.

I hope you’ll check out my in progress online novel at my Yahoo 360 blog site. I’m new at this blogging stuff, so if you don’t already have it on your favorites list, I have some complicated (not really) instructions:

Call up Yahoo 360, then look for Home with a blue background, to the right of that click on search, and key in Anthony Walther. That should do it. You’ll have to look down the page a bit, but you should see Anthony W and also the title of my novel, Tuleville Sundown.

I may just dedicate this site to my novel(s).

Wouldn’t mind if you’d check out my Tony’s Transport Blog at

http://tonystransportblog.wordpress.com

I’ve done about three posts on the transport blog. Wished I could make that one into some kind of business, but I’m stuck in slow gear. I do think, though, that if I could keep it up, I could provide some good info and thoughts on the subject. I spent some 13 years hauling freight and have watched the trends in shipping all that time. For over-the-road trucking, it was go-go-go, when I first started. Wait, no, that is not actually correct. Trucking is always susceptible to up and down freight levels. I was once laid over for a week on the east coast and then finally got a load of empty plastic containers that I hauled to the Hershey plant in Oakdale, Ca. I think that plant is now closed down.

Even if you’re not hot on freight, it’s interesting, because really, that’s how everyone gets what they need. It comes to you on a truck, as well as via other modes of transportation. But trucks account for most of it, and are virtually always in the chain of transport somewhere.

Okay, I’m stuck on one subject here, so let’s move on:

–Hillary maybe has gone off the deep end implying that she needs to stay in the race in case her opponent meets an untimely demise. That’s not actually what she said, but it could have been interpreted as such. Somehow, I think the Clintons have worn out their welcome.

–Although I wrote a Walther Report that called for us to speak softly and carry a big stick, Obama may be risking being seen as a Neville Chamberlain type appeaser with his willingness to talk to anyone attitude. Peace in our time.

–If McCain can keep his energy level up, I think he could really give Obama (or Hillary) a run for the money. That is not an endorsement of McCain.

–I think McCain ought to choose Condoleeza Rice as his running mate. Now I have not been impressed with her, but I know she is a smart woman, and I think once she sheds Bush, she might show better judgment, or not. She certainly has the credentials to be president and could be if McCain were to win, then become incapacitated (and no I’m not committing another Hillaryism) or decide not to run for a second term or she might run later for the top spot after being vice president. If they ran against Obama, the Republicans could crow that at least they are willing to put a woman on the ticket.

–Young voters may make the difference this time around. If they vote, they could well provide the winning majority for Obama.

–And, as the Clintons used to say, “it’s the economy stupid.” If the economy stays bad, the Democrats will likely win. I still can’t figure out why they lost after Clinton, since he left office with a booming economy (although it was ready to go bust). Oh., that’s right, I always forget, Gore did win the majority of popular vote, but it was close.

–Skyrocketing fuel prices are forcing us to adopt economies and efficiencies we should have been practicing all along. In this instance, the free market, supply and demand, seems to be working. While I always suspect that there is at least some manipulation going on, I think the law of supply and demand is the main culprit.

–I wish our politicians would quit kowtowing to pastors such as Wright and Hagee (Obama had to shed the first and McCain the second) and all those right wing religious groups. Rather than try to impress them, they should look up and then look in the mirror and quietly give thought and prayer. What if a politician never spoke of religion, but quietly attended church once a week? Would he or she be any less righteous? And what if a politician were not a believer? Well then that would be up to the voters to decide, if that was among their criteria.

–Need to write a Walther Report about my own bout with cancer. But it is not something I care to dwell on that much. But it would help me to learn more about what I need to know and I think it might help others too, who might stumble upon these words on the world wide web.

–Doctor’s orders, due to a possibly compromised immune system I have to stay away from crowds, so I am imprisoned here at home over this long and rainy Memorial Day weekend in Northern California.

–Talk about wrapping one’s self up in the flag, the wife (“the wife”, as the oldtimers used to say) bought this humongous flag (made in USA) that we are flying out on the front porch. The breeze makes it wrap around the unsuspecting walking by. It also gets caught up in the rain gutter. I better break to Google up instructions about proper flag etiquette. While I’ve never considered myself a flag waver, I do have great respect for the old Red White and Blue and don’t see any good coming out of dishonoring it. I’ll look that up right now…..Okay, I’m back. The site I brought up claims if it’s an all-weather flag it’s okay to fly it in the rain (the gutter thing is a problem).

–I wish everyone, including me, would quit watching commercial televison. The programs are junk and the commercials are too many, too fast, to zippy, to edgy, obscene, often violent (both program content and commercials) and most of the time I don’t even get them (they apparently are not targeting me). And why must we be bombarded with all those personal product messages and the endless sex enhancement ones?

–No one forces us to watch TV and apparently no one is forced to read my blogs, because according to my blog services, I’m not getting many hits. Later.