Sunday, November 11

Remembering the Forgotten Veterans

In 2012, the last of the "War to End all Wars" veterans passed away. My grandfather fought in that war, in the British infantry. The very last combat veteran of "The Great War" passed away a year ago. With it, our focus mostly passed to the veterans of the second "Great War." Lost in the dialogue about the Second World War veterans; referred to as "the greatest generation," some others are less lionized and we should also remember them. In many cases they stood far taller, IMO, than those swept up in the great wars.

Monument to Canadian Volunteers in Victoria
from Wikipedia
Case 1:Veterans of the Spanish Civil War
While I'm not necessarily a fan of their politics, many volunteers from the US and Canada fought against the Franco-led Fascists. In both countries, those are not recognized or honored for doing so, unlike those that later fought in the AVG or who were drafted for service. Belatedly, both countries have recognized their volunteers (more or less), as through the Mackenzie-Papineau Monument in Victoria BC, and the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Monument in San Francisco. Sadly, to this day, these veterans are not permitted to be listed in the Books of Remembrance in the Ottawa Peace Tower, nor in any equivalent US site. Who says lefties are always wrong? Well, at least the couple of dozen that are still alive. They fought Hitler while the rest of the West slept. That took REAL courage.

Case 2: Korea
Korea veterans forgotten? Yes. IMO, the now passing generation of men and women that came up after the Second World War to answer the call of the United Nations have mostly been forgotten. Truman is remembered for the atomic bomb. MacArthur is remembered for returning to the Phillipines, and Eisenhower is remembered for D Day. Arguably, each of them may have achieved more in Korea, where they stopped an invasion without the impetus of an Adolph Hitler. My dad fought in Korea. I don't think he ever got a parade when he came home, nor the thanks of a grateful nation. Thanks, dad.

Case 3: Vietnam
Vietnam is a mixed story. Ignored in places like Canada and Britain, it is remembered in a conflicted sort of way in the US. This is a war of people just a touch older than I. I was in ROTC before it was decided we were not needed. Still, IMO, the Vietnam Memorial is one of the best remembrances of all time to a cause that was lost despite the best efforts and sacrifices of those we called upon. Truly, we lost some of our best and brightest there, in a cause few now think was worth their sacrifice. At the time, most of them were not asked for their opinion - people like Kennedy, LBJ, and Nixon said "Go," and, mostly, they went. They left a foundation that led to a more proper respect for those that put their lives at risk for the rest of us.

The First-Ever Newspaper I Saved


Khal said...

I dunno, Steve. I'd be more likely to be found on one of those International Brigades than with Franco in that revolution. Mind you, the folks fighting Franco spanned the range from die hard commies to centrists.

One has to give some credit to the US political system of that time for giving us options other than the two extremes that took hold in Europe.

I agree that the volunteers who fought Franco should be honored here and officially. That war was, as we know in retrospect, one of the major precursors to WW II and should have been noted as an advance of Fascism, just as Anschluss and Munich should never have been allowed to happen. A lot of people died later because we let that Austrian house painter get his way once too often.

If there is a lesson to be learned, its that war will continue to confront us if we don't figure out a better way to solve our problems before someone opens fire.

Steve A said...

Die hards were much more common than centrists, which is one reason the Republicans lost. Even members of the International Brigades were screened to make sure they were politically pure enough. Even so, they were the first to stand up to Adolph...

Khal said...

I suspect the more important reason the Republicans lost is that they didn't have JU-87's.

Justine Valinotti said...

Steve, you make great points about the Spanish Civil and Korean War veterans. In the US, it took the attack on Pearl Harbor to alert most Americans to the fascistic dictators who were taking over large swaths of the planet. Although Franco never built empires (as short-lived as they were) like those of Hitler, Mussolini or the Japanese Emperor, he was a menace and remained in power long after their deaths.

The sad irony is that this country allied itself with Franco after WWII, and remained his biggest (and, at times, only) supporter for three decades.

Those things said, I still think the condition of the human race will improve only if we eliminate war.

Trevor said...

A thought provoking post Steve....Thanks for helping us to remember these often forgotten veterans....


RANTWICK said...

I liked that very much Steve. I would like to add Peacekeeping forces around the world over the last 50 years... serving their countries and dying inglorious deaths trying to stop full-blown wars between people not their own.

Steve A said...

Peacekeepers are very much akin to the Mac-Paps and the other wars fought for "others..."

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