Beautiful Veterans Day 2010

I went to the Navy Memorial for the Veterans Day Wreath Laying. Although I could have fought the crowds to get to Arlington; or I could have gone to the Air Force or Vietnam Memorials; my decision was to honor my great-great uncle. His ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in WWI; his body was never recovered.

As a very out lesbian veteran I make sure to wear my medals on the five days veterans should and can wear their medals. In my old hometown I was very well known and my story was probably more widely known. But, it was wearing my medals that brought to the forefront how few veterans there are now as a percentage of the population.

The importance of veterans being “out” is an issue as the crazies are being elected; people without knowledge of military service, either their own or their family or friends. These are the Republicans calling for vets to pay for their own health care which means privatizing veterans health care.

Back to the ceremony. I arrived about an hour early so I could take in the beautiful day, I often wonder what the day my g-g uncle died on was like. His ship was torpedoed a bit after 8pm local time, he may have died when the first one exploded or it could have been the second torpedo.

The weather could not have been better on a day when we remember our family and friends who have been killed fighting for our country. I have had several relatives, men and women killed fighting for freedom. The breezed even stopped for the ceremony allowing the wonderful warmth of the sun to prevail.

As the Navy personnel practiced marching and playing their instruments I watched the crowd arrive. Veterans looking around for other vets. Looking either for medals, or a cap or vest indicating service.

I am easy to notice, rather tall, large and very blond. My medals clanked as I walked around, at least the guys don’t have to worry about the big bounce making them sound like an off tune music show. Many people came up to me to ask and tell. It is important that we vets touch and reassure ourselves that we did what we had to do, often having fun, occasionally experiencing horror and pain.

The ceremony itself was like so many other veterans ceremonies I have attended either as a participant or as a viewer. This day I scanned the crowd of about 100 people and noticed something very interesting. I counted at least six and possibly eight lesbian couples. It does not take Gaydar to see hands being held or arms around shoulders or a look between two people who are a couple.

One of the couples had children with them which I thought was great. The children were under five and the importance of the ceremony will not be understood for many more years. But they were there.

After the ceremony I went up to one of the couples to say “HI”. “Navy” was the answer one told me when I asked if either were active duty. The other is a civilian, but her father was Navy. I don’t think DADT was on their minds as they sat through the wreath laying and afterward took pictures of the Sailor and the wreath.

That was a beautiful end to a beautiful and solemn day. Well almost. On the Metro ride back home I decided to risk life and limb by riding in the first car, first seat to watch out the front window. A woman with a very typical 3 year old was a seat over. The little girl was up and looking out the doors at each stop, and just enjoying her ride.

After a while I asked the mother if her daughter would like a flag. I had picked up a small American flag as a souvenir of the day. It was sticking out of my bag. “Yes, that would be nice. Are you sure?” “No problem, just write on the stick the date and Navy Memorial for me.” As the girl took her new flag and waved it around her mother told me, “Thank you so much. We are teaching her about her new country and this flag means a lot to us.” The little girl was adopted, maybe Korean or Chinese heritage.

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Veterans Day 2010

Each year Veterans Day brings a deeper appreciation for what our forefathers and foremothers did to form our country, as well as what those who have fought and died for freedom from tyranny mean to me and our country.

This year the hard numbers are continuing to show a decline in the percentage of veterans to general population, which would be fine if we were not engaged in two wars. Those women and men on active duty around the world are strained and suffering to an extent unheard of in modern history.

This year I will be going to the Navy Memorial wreath laying in honor my of Great-Great-Uncle Seaman James Bennett. I never met him because he was killed during WWI. I did meet my other G-G Uncles who served during WWI in France. I was a child growing up listening to them talk about almost anything except what they faced fighting the Germans.

I also listened to my father, his friends, my father-in-law and others who served in WWII and Korea. They did not talk about WWII as much as they focused on the present and the future. They had served, and done so proudly. They were veterans, but importantly civilians wanting a better America.

Then it became my turn to serve. I felt an inevitability to serve even as I prepared for civilian life without any thought of serving. I would be the first generation on any side of my family in over 100 years to not serve. But, I did. My enlistment in the Air Force happened due to many reasons.

Now that I am spending time at the VA hospital preparing to have new knees installed, I suppose that is the best way to describe having mechanical parts put in to replace the originals, I am getting to know more people of my generation, and of those who were in after me. I can see the damage caused by war, I wish more people would too. The missing limbs and eyes. Veterans needing replacements for knees and ankles that were damaged and are finally giving out.

One area that is finally getting treated is our brains. My G-G Uncles and others who had served in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and thousands of other locations and in many duties civilians would never know about have suffered from mental issues such as PTSD. Now there is a push to treat the whole veteran. It is important, so very important for us.

This year is so important because I just read that the President is going to keep active duty troops in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than he promised. I feel for them and their families. I know I will be seeing them someday at veterans events and the VA hospital too.

Cross posted Colorado Pols, Daily Kos

James Bennet KIA WWI

James Bennett listing in Casualties of WWI

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A Week After Look

It’s been over a week since the general elections that brought about the loss of Democratic seats nationwide. The actual legislative changes are still in the future, although from the posturing going on you would think the newly elected had taken office immediately.
With the hard, no compromises given, talk of many of the newly elected and emboldened office holders there seems to be a slight change during the week from those very same people. A few like Rand Paul have actually walked back their stances on things now that the concept of putting into action the slash and burn campaign talk requires them to actually perform. So many of the candidates running as the one and only person who can save America (by destroying it) are finding out they have to work with others who are the only person who can save America (by destroying it).
While they have a no compromise, no prisoners taken approach to governing, the reality is they have to work with people elected to the same legislative body as themselves. Forming a caucus should give them a collective voice, which goes against their rugged individualist talk.
Taking the few days worth of information available and how the GOP has divided into two factions during the last thirty years makes a prediction of future action of the GOP in the House very difficult. With possibly three factions now trying to be the “one” form of the GOP running the show there is the possibility of an implosion of those who think they are the true leaders of the party.
The Democrats in power now, but not after January, are in a serious quandary. There are critical bills to be passed and a treaty, START, to be ratified in the Senate. The House may not have the actual moxie to do anything, although Pelosi has done good things so far.
I think next year will be less about not governing by choice of the Republicans as the Republicans unable to govern in the House due to each of the three factions trying to stop the other from dictating how the party will function and the country to not function.

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Rally For Sanity – Did It

Today marked something very different in the media, something so different than what has been promoted and played for months, at least. The Stewart-Colbert rally on the Mall forced the talking heads and media types to talk about the people of America who are not frothing at the mouth angry at everybody and everything. They had to drop the partisan rhetoric of the far right extremists. For the simple fact that today’s get together was not about hate. Nor was it about anti-government.

There were none of the hysterical screeching so loved by the various talking heads when they are trying to create a division amongst Americans. What possibly could come out of this huge gathering for those whose lives depend on falsehoods and ignorance?

Well, a lot of people came together for the purpose of showing what Americans look like who are not characters in a melodrama. The Capitol backdrop provided a constant reminder that we are a country of laws, and that our representatives who we elect to represent us work in that beautiful building.

A rally of this importance at this moment gives our own country and other countries around the world the important news that America is not nuts. Or rabid with hate and ignorance.

What the hate mongers and Sunday talking heads will talk about what they usually do. Probably how all these people just don’t understand why they should be ignorant and filled with hate. They have to find a way to come up with something – even if it is wrong.

Thank you Stewart and Colbert and the hundreds of thousands of people who came to Washington D.C. today.

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