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What Does Jane Think About?

 

J. D. Pendry

 

On the 11th day, of the 11th month and supposedly at the 11th hour, a signed armistice ended the war to end all wars. We now recognize the day as Veterans Day.The war to end all wars was World War I.Since we had the sequel, obviously it didnít work out as hoped.The latest attack on our country occurred on the 11th day.Isnít that interesting?Weíve entered into another period that will produce more of those who are willing to sacrifice for the greater good - veterans.

 

Veterans Day has taken on more significance to me now that I meet Mr. Websterís definition of one, a: an old soldier of long service b: a former member of the armed forces.I answer in the affirmative on both accounts.Itís also taken on more meaning for me now that I work for the VA.Iím one of the grunts of the VA.Itís not unlike the years I spent as an enlisted soldier.Never in charge of much, not able to change dumb decisions made by those echelons above me, but always knowing that the job canít be done without me and those like me.

 

Veterans Day is a day of reflection; a time to think about former members of the armed forces and the sacrifices they made to preserve the way of life that too many of us take for granted.We live in a country of privilege and plenty, so Iím grateful to those who went before me and those who will follow who preserve that way of life for us.

 

My job often requires that I look through the service records of old soldiers.Whenever I do, I find my self contemplating his or her service.I read names of places like Bastogne or Guadalcanal (although there are fewer of these each day) and realize that many people in our country do not know the significance of those names or of the sacrifice of the veterans who were there.I also see names like Pusan, and Chu Lai and those associated with the Gulf War.Today when I hear the news, Iím learning new names like Kabul and Kandahar.Many of those who will become veterans associated with these places were not alive for Chu Lai, and were little more than toddlers for the Gulf War.

 

Each generation manages to have its own crisis requiring the young men and women of our country to decide about serving or not serving.We have to be grateful for those who choose to serve; because their sacrifice protects the way of life the rest of us enjoy.I try to think about those things on Veterans Day.

 

My thoughts always manage to make their way around to other things.I try to think about the positive, but the negative seems to sneak in there and ruin the mood.Just the other day, I saw a television news article talking about public schools that ban military recruiters from their campuses Ė and itís probably many more schools than you think.A reporter interviewed an overweight, pasty-faced school administrator who said she doesnít allow them [recruiters] access because they badger students with letters and phone calls. Imagine that, a recruiter who tries to recruit.She said students arenít interested in the military and donít want to be bothered with recruiters.I thought it was grand of her to decide for every student what it is they want or are interested in.I wonder what that administrator and the many like her think about on Veterans Day.

 

When I hear the peaceniks talking Ė and they are again, my thoughts uncontrollably transfer to Hanoi Jane.The image of her sitting on a North Vietnamese anti aircraft gun surrounded by enemy soldiers and grinning for the cameras while American soldiers were dieing in the jungles and being tortured in POW camps is one I canít seem to get out of my mind.That and the realization that sheís never had to sacrifice anything for her privileged existence adds insult to injury as they say.I wonder what Jane thinks about on Veterans Day.

 

Iíve been to places in our country while in uniform during times when many people acted as though they would prefer to have anthrax walking through the door to a soldier.I wish I could transport all of you to a major airport in our country around the mid 60ís to early 70ís, and let you observe how their countrymen welcomed home many soldiers returning from service in Vietnam.Or to a college campus to watch students burn draft cards and the American flag.Itís difficult to find the words to describe feelings those scenes bring about, just as it is difficult to understand how people such as our previously mentioned school administrator think.Whom does she suppose made it possible for the freest nation on earth to come into existence?Iíll stop rambling here and share a poem from a poet with which most soldiers are familiar.He captures the sentiment well.Happy Veterans Day, and thank you for serving our country!

 

 

Tommy

By

Rudyard Kipling

 

I went into a public-'ouse to get a pint o' beer,
The publican 'e up an' sez, "We serve no red-coats here."
The girls be'ind the bar they laughed an' giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an' to myself sez I:
††† O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
††† But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
††† The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
††† O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.
 
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but 'adn't none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls,
But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!
††† For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, wait outside";
††† But it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide,
††† The troopship's on the tide, my boys, the troopship's on the tide,
††† O it's "Special train for Atkins" when the trooper's on the tide.
 
Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;
An' hustlin' drunken soldiers when they're goin' large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin' in full kit.
††† Then it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, 'ow's yer soul?"
††† But it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll,
††† The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
††† O it's "Thin red line of 'eroes" when the drums begin to roll.
 
We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
††† While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
††† But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
††† There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
††† O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.
 
You talk o' better food for us, an' schools, an' fires, an' all:
We'll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don't mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow's Uniform is not the soldier-man's disgrace.
††† For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Chuck him out, the brute!"
††† But it's "Saviour of 'is country" when the guns begin to shoot;
††† An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
††† An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool -- you bet that Tommy sees!