Memorial Day

My father, William M. Bates, USN:


(Last year’s Memorial Day post says most of what I have to say, so I have excerpted parts of it here.)

Dad was the gunnery officer on a troop landing ship. Yes, he was there at Normandy on D-Day, and once observed to me that however much he was being shot at, dodging bullets and shrapnel (mostly successfully, with one small exception) as he directed fire control, the troops actually landing that day had it far, far worse than he did. My thanks to every one of them who served then, and to those who serve today.

War is unpleasant, nasty business… Dad emphasized to me that it was anything but glorious… but we all owe our lives, and such freedom as we still have, to the men and women who prepare for war. Today is their day.

To my regret, over the span of my lifetime, America’s propensity for participation in one war after another has grown, and presidents both Republican and Democratic have successfully employed war… undeclared and mostly without congressional consent, and sometimes even waged secretly… as a political device.

Moreover, as the supply of willing volunteers has declined in the face of increasingly inappropriate use of troops in wars or other operations that contribute nothing significant to America’s security, the use of stop-loss orders, and four, five or even more rotations for individual soldiers in “hot” wars… the very word “volunteer” has come to be a mockery, a word meaning “anyone who once, long ago, volunteered to serve his or her country, and now is forbidden to go home, rejoin family and live in peace.”

This is simply wrong. But I see no prospect of its being changed under the current allegedly Democratic president, any more than it was changed under the previous Republican “president.” It’s war without end, amen.

Mr. President: spare our troops, and bring them home as soon as possible, and in one piece if possible. We owe them at least that minimal consideration.

The rest of you: please pause in consuming hot dogs and beer for long enough to remember those who fell in America’s good and bad wars. And if you happen to see any vets who made it home, shake their hand and thank them.

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  • Bryan  On Monday May 30, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    On one of her trips to Europe, my Mother, her sister, and brother-in-law went to see the Normandy beaches. My uncle Carl wanted to go because his father was one of those who were in that landing.

    Carl was also in the military, and he said that area was a trap waiting to be sprung. There were bluffs just beyond a stretch of beach that were perfect for shooting down on people coming ashore. That’s why everyone assumed that the landing would be to the North where the terrain was less “abrupt”.

    If you make to the top of the bluff you start to encounter the hedgerows and stone fences, not to mention what the Germans had constructed.

    Your Dad was out there with nothing to hide behind on the water, definitely a sitting duck and obvious target. That whole operation could have turned sour so quickly, that it is amazing it succeeded.

    Oh, yes, there were hidden obstacles below the water all along the coast that could rip the bottom out of a boat. They had to be cleared, but that forced all of the landing craft through a limited number of openings.

    There was no such thing as a “safe berth” anywhere along that coast during the landing.

    It wasn’t just that they did it, they did it knowing it was going to be bad as soon as they saw the landing zone.

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