Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Uncommon Valour

We have reached, incredibly, the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima. This most ferocious of World War Two battles touches me closely. I had an uncle, and a father-in-law, who both fought at Iwo Jima. Somehow, they both survived. Both have been dead for many years.

It was rather an abstraction until my sister-in-law gave me James Bradley's Flags of Our Fathers for Christmas a couple of years ago. My wife, a professional reader who will read food labels if there isn't better printed matter around, has not been able to read this vivid history of the battle that changed her father's life.

Conservatives locked into their ideology can't understand how a radical veteran can comprehend what happened there. My view is different, that's all. Valour draws me, irresistibly, for that is the act of individuals for each other, not the grinding of a state military machine. In any battle, much of the death is of the latter variety. Death on that filthy pile of ground lava was redeemed chiefly by what men caught in it did for one another, for squad, platoon, or company, and for the aviators' lives later saved by possessing that pile and its airfield.

It also comes as a surprise to some people that all Vietnam veterans aren't entirely happy with the "greatest generation" label. Many of us were treated very shabbily by World War Two veterans.

I doubt that all of us were uplifted by Anheuser-Busch's "applause" spot during the Super Bowl, aimed at returning Iraq War veterans. Yes,it's jealousy: we do not know what it is to have the applause of our country. However, I don't begrudge the Iwo Jima veterans one iota of their greatness. It doesn't seem that the rising generation does, either.

On today's news, I saw coverage of the 60th anniversary ceremonies at Quantico. A paraplegic Marine veteran of the current war was present as a speaker. He insisted on standing, unsteady, assisted on one side, gripping the podium with his left hand, to salute the men who earned the phrase, "uncommon valour was a common virtue." I think that valour is not quite dead.


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