Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

Or should I say Armistice Day, as it used to be known?

In any case, Monday may be the official holiday, nationally and in some states, but today is the real one ... remembering the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 when the guns fell silent at the 11th hour.

So give your favorite veteran a call today. You never know which Veteran's day will be his or her last one, and it is not just the WW II vets who are fading away. Plenty of Vietnam vets are getting on in years along with the vets who got the Tom Brokaw treatment. Which reminds me: I really should give my brother-in-law a call.

I'm glad I know the story of how he won a major combat medal while doing what would seem to be the safe job of a court reporter at a field court martial that got a bit hot. He, like most men who have seen combat, doesn't talk about it much. Similarly, a good friend did not find out his father's combat history in the Pacific until after he died. For good reason, I suppose. If you ever happen to see the film shot by combat photographers as the Marines landed on Tarawa, you'll get the general idea that the experiment might be hard to explain.

My grandfather, who served in France during WW I and told a priceless story of Armistice Day, also said little about his service as a combat engineer. I only know about the time he took a shrapnel hit in the helmet and when he got a "touch" of mustard gas that sent him to a rear-echelon job driving an ambulance. Although this gas was not one developed by Fritz Haber, I still find it outrageous that Haber won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1918. Oddly enough, his contribution to using chemistry for mass killing during WW I is not even mentioned in the bio on the Nobel site.

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