Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"[But] he was no enemy, because music had soothed the savage beast"...

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations..."

Former President Woodrow Wilson spoke these words in November 1919 at the first commemoration of Armistice Day when he proclaimed November 11 as a day to honor veterans for their patriotism willingness to sacrifice for their country. Signed into law on June 1, 1954 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, November 11 became the official holiday to celebrate the efforts of all veterans to make the world a safer place. He inserted the word "Veterans" in place of "Armistice" since by then we'd fought in two more wars.

The blog title is a quote from Ret. Colonel Jack Tueller, a fighter pilot with the gift of music. Two weeks after D-Day, a day in which he played a significant role in helping the Allies land on the beaches, Tueller risked inciting a lone German sniper and played "Lilly Marlene" on the trumpet to calm his own nerves. The military police caught the sniper the next day; the German had not fired on Tueller because he was caught up in the thoughts of his family and sweetheart the song elicited. The CNN article goes on to profile Tueller, from his days at college where he met the love of his life (and wife of 68 years) to his enlistment and post-war career as a journalist.

Still celebrated as Armistice Day in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared together in Paris - the first time since World War I the leaders of the two countries have celebrated Armistice Day together. The pair laid a wreath of flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and symbolically re-lit the perpetual flame to commemorate the 91st anniversary of the end of "the war to end all wars." The MSNBC story also highlighted celebrations in Belgium and in Ypres, France.

Many Americans have made their way to one of our own war memorials, particularly this week. Built in 1982 to honor the fallen of the Vietnam War, soldiers' families and other veterans began leaving mementos even before the wall was finished. Park rangers collected them, thinking the families would come back for them someday. But those early dog tags, combat boots, poems, letters and all other manner of ephemera became the basis of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection, a private museum of personal items and notes stored at the Museum and Archaeological Storage facility in Maryland. The article on notes the curator of the collection and his staff often have no context for the items and cites the poignant example of the meaning behind packages of M&Ms.

The historic and rightly famed Navajo Code Talkers are in New York today for the nation's largest Veterans Day parade. The Boston Globe notes about 50 of the 400 Code Talkers are still alive, but those men are frail, and their supporters are worried their legacy will die with them. Thirteen of the Navajo former soldiers will march and hope their presence will raise awareness of their efforts and help fund a museum slated to open in 2012. Navajo Marines developed an ultra-secret code transmitted verbally over radios, which helped the US to victories at Iwo Jima and other battles in the Pacific. The Japanese, who had no trouble breaking US codes with the help of expert English translators, were never able to break the Navajo codes.

Celebrating Veterans Day can seem like an oxymoron - remembering those who died in service to the country doesn't lend itself to a rollicking good time. Restaurants and stores nationwide are offering discounts to veterans and active duty personnel (and their families), which is a beautiful thought, especially in this economy. However, one effort on Huffington Post caught my eye. First, I was surprised to find an article on there by Kim Cattrall, aka Samantha from Sex and the City. I was doubly surprised to see it centered around veterans. Cattrall is promoting the Eleven-Eleven Campaign, a bipartisan collaboration between charities and bloggers from both sides of the aisle. Eleven veterans' charities are banding together to get 11 million Americans to donate $11 to the campaign by November 11, 2011 - 11/11/11.

No comments: