November 11th, 1918. After 4 years of the most destructive war until that time, the guns fell silent. Dazed, starved soldiers on both sides crawled out of the mud of the trenches to celebrate. An armistice had been signed, the peace treaty would come later. In America, it was celebrated first as armistice day and now as Veterans Day. In Germany it came to be called “The black day of the German Army”. I lost a great uncle who had enlisted to go fight the Hun. He never made it to Europe, having died of pneumonia on the trip across the Atlantic. He was buried at sea by the British sailors whose ship was transporting our troops, and my family received a communique from the British admiralty detailing the circumstances of his death and the longitude and latitude of his burial. Europe had lost three empires and the cream of an entire generation of their bravest and best. Astonishingly, in less than 4 years, The German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian and Ottoman empires had disappeared. England lost her globe spanning dominance and barely retained the shards of empire. In 4 short years the world had changed from the exuberant idealism of the late Edwardian age, to the multiple morasses of communism, epidemic influenza, and a shattered and shell-shocked psychosis. Four Years! Ayn Rand notes that when modern civilizations collapse, they tend to do so very quickly. As the web of commerce and communication begins to shred, the pace of the downward slide of civilization increases exponentially.
This essay is dedicated to those who have done the most to fight against the collapse, and in doing so have time and again kept the enemy from the gates. I am speaking of the veterans that we honor on the 11th day of the 11th month. My wife’s father was stationed in the Philippines shortly before the Japanese attacks there and at Pearl Harbor. He narrowly escaped the Bataan death march and fought in the Pacific for “the Duration” He was wounded in the legs by Japanese machine gun fire and was advised he might never walk again. He worked and prevailed and remained ambulatory for the rest of his life. My wife also had an uncle who was killed in the Ardennes in 1944 during the German winter offensive. She lost a brother in Vietnam and welcomed home another brother from Desert Storm. My Uncle Harry was with G2 and landed in Normandy on June 7th. He was the first American intelligence officer allowed into Templehof Airport in Berlin after the soviets occupied what was left of that city.
Then came Korea in 1950. My father, who had received an athletic scholarship to university of Maryland, quit in his first year and enlisted in the United States Air Force. Although at the top of his class for fighter school, he was not permitted to fly combat ops due to a very questionable eye condition. Instead he went to ground school on the first new fighters with the new jet engines. He trained a new cohort of fliers on how these things worked, serviced them as a crew chief, served with the very first AWACS squadron ever formed and worked for the air force into the Vietnam era rebuilding jet engines shipped back from S.E. Asia. That is a picture of him at the top of the page in front of his beloved T-33 Jet Trainer. Because nearly every new pilot in those days started learning on the t-bird, My dad had an opportunity to meet an incredible number of fliers who went on to become Fighter aces, Generals, and astronauts. We celebrated his 75th Birthday at the Udvar Hazy Air Museum in Virginia. My wife can now time the intake and exhaust valves on a Pratt-Whitney R-2800. Talk about a well of knowledge. I am very grateful to have him around.
Remember everyone. The people I have mentioned in these paragraphs did their duty as they saw fit and never complained. Our civilization survives because of their efforts. We must be ever vigilant. The world as we know it today can change in the blink of an eye. Be prepared., and thank a veteran if you know one.
This Land is your land…. Muninn