D-Day + 68

Those WWII Allied forces vets (American, British, Russian et al) are now fewer in number among the living than my blog entry of a year ago. In another ten years, even the youngest of such veterans will be in their late 90s. I watched the news on & off today, and not much mention was made of June 6, 1944, known as D-Day. I’m sure it was commemorated properly here and there, as it should forever more be, given its historical importance.

Regardless of what generation a military veteran represents, our armed forces exist, in general principle anyway, to protect our country from possible attack or to engage an enemy who does so. Germany, Japan (who attacked Pearl harbor) and Italy were a unequivocal threat, to all of Europe, and potentially the U.S. and the world.  Post-WWII has had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Gulf I & Gulf II, plus Afghanistan.  In these instances, the threat ranged from creeping communism to our current “war on terror”.  In the most egregious misuse of military force, our troops were sent to engage  Saddam Hussein’s regime, an invasion that was–as is now evidence based, iron-clad truth–based on fear mongering and Bush administration lies. Our combat troops are out of Iraq, thank goodness–and finally. While the U.S. and Europe as well as the rest of the free world could not consider defeat as an option against Germany and Japan, given the stakes, the same cannot be said of those other, post-WWII conflicts. Evidently defeat, or to put a better “spin” on the matter, not succeeding, does appear to be an option these days. For example, we certainly can’t claim victory in either Korea or Vietnam, but how did our not winning actually diminish any aspect of the American way of life?  It may seem cynical, but veterans of any of the aforementioned conflicts of the past 60 or so years appear to better have better protected the military-industrial complex (as foretold by President Eisenhower) than the American way of life. From Korea to Afghanistan, these military deployments could never have the gravitas of World War Two. Our troops fight, die and are injured the same as in any war, but the reasons they are deployed seem arbitrary and ideological in nature. 

Before long, D-Day and the rest of that war will be second-hand history lessons. As that saying goes, old soldiers never die, they just fade away.  The memories may die as the participants of that generation die, but history documents what a different, and much harsher, reality it was for all concerned compared then to how our general population now processes or participates in how our government uses our fighting forces. The  average American lives life detached from the sacrifices and struggles of what has transpired recently, in Iraq and now Afghanistan. With an all volunteer army, unlike the draft process as recent as the Vietnam conflict, only a small fraction of our civilian population has any real stake in what happens to our troops. On an abstract level,  I’m certain everyone wants our troops to succeed, but there is no national “pulling together” to help ensure their success. Why should there be? What’s really at stake? Exxon Mobil’s bottom-line? Northrup’s? No sacrifices are needed to be shared now, as in WWII. No rationing of gasoline, fuel, sugar and other necessities. Raw materials need not be conserved for the war effort. No war bonds are being issued and bought. The supermarkets and shopping malls are bursting with food, clothes, gizmos, baubles and bright shining bling. And while many American citizens hit the malls or watch CSI or Seinfeld reruns, our fighting forces are pretty much on their own, at the mercy of foreign policy and geo-political dogma. There’s not the remotest chance of the American way of life being altered  by anything happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran or anywhere else. And our troops seem to know it. Those countries, like Vietnam, could never be a threat to the United States, militarily.

But a soldier is a soldier is a soldier.

The mainstream mass media doesn’t present any graphic reality of the modern vet in combat, not since Vietnam. Now the mainstream news, electronic and print jopurnalists, have sold their souls to the sinister machinations of forces that see victory as a means of more power, priviledge and money.  What the media does do, as a token nod to our troops, is to exploit their efforts in jingoistic and cheaply emotional, choreographed, flag-waving events inserted into major television programming. The American public at-large can thus  pay a brief homage to those serving (and dying) in our modern military when the networks include a jet fighter fly-over of a football stadium, or a gaggle of combat vets in dress uniform at mid-field, half-court, the hockey rink, or on the infield of a ballpark. Of course they deserve the attention, but they serve, whether they care or not, for those with sinister intents. Indeed, the bitter irony is that these troops need not have been ever been put in harm’s way, especially in the invasion of Iraq, and these days in Afghanistan as well.   

By extension, in another case of irony, when the Allied forces fought and won the war that had to be won, they ensured all possibilities for the future, including the current shallow, reality show generation as well as the empty suits that pass for our national “leaders”. The baseball All-Star Game , the World Series, the Super Bowl, the Oscars and other must see TV! will all no doubt give fans the chance to indulge in a warm-fuzzy military, mental moment, as well as the freedom to raid the fridge for another beer, or quickly check Facebook or YouTube before returning to what really gets them riled up and ready to scream their support, the on-field action! 

Get your game face on!

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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