As always, the Posse offers deep thanks to our military veterans for their service. Perhaps I was just inattentive, but it seems to me that more businesses are offering discounts and promotions for veterans than ever before. This is a good thing.
Our nation is not only divided between the producers and consumers (or "makers" and "takers" but also between those who serve and those who do not - and will not.
I never liked all the flowery rhetoric about the World War II generation being the "Greatest Generation." First off, every generation faces is challenges. To say that this one or that one had more strikes me as the height of arrogant self-importance. That this label came from the Baby Boomer made it even more obnoxious.
When I think about important generations, I think about the parents of the "Greatest," the people born between 1890 and 1910. They weathered slumps, two wars and ignited the greatest period of technological advancement in human history. The leaps forward in medicine, communication, transportation - and even warfare - far exeeded anything before or since.
When war came, they went. When the economy collapsed, they muddled through. The World War II generation provided the footsoldiers for victory, but the architects came from this age group.
As everyone should know, today marks the anniversary of the culiminating moment of that earlier generation - the end of the World War I. Back then they called it the Great War, the World War, the War to End All Wars. It gets little attention here in the United States, but it lies like a chasm across human history, a break with what went before every bit as significant as the fall of the Roman Empire or the Norman Conquest of England.
That calamity saw the collapse of the old ways - religion, tradition, family - and the rise of new beliefs, like Communism, National Socialism, moral relativism. We are now, almost a century later, still trying to pick up the pieces of that conflict. The constant crisis in the Middle East, the uncertain rise of China, Russia's turmoil, Africa's uneasy borders and the strife in the Balkans are all the legacy of that perfect storm and imperfect peace.
Where do veterans come into this?
In 1917, for the first time since the Civil War, the United States implemented conscription. The fear was that were would be draft riots, as their had been in 1863. It did not happen. Instead, millions of young men registered and, when called, reported for duty. Almost from scratch this country went from a miniscule peacetime army to millions of Doughboys ready to go "Over There" and fight in France.
It took time to call up, train, equip and ship them there. More than a year after the declaration of war, the US Army was still pulling itself together. In the meantime, the desperate Germans launched the Kaiserschlacht - one last desperate gamble to win the war before our troops arrived in force. It failed,
The Allied counterstroke was terrible, and starting in July 1918, it proceeded without stop. Unlike previous offensives, this was no localized affair, but a series of hammer-blows all across the Western Front. There was no pause, not respite, and as American divisions became ready they were marched to the front and hurled into the inferno.
The American portion of the offensive has gone down in history as the Meuse-Argonne campaign.
To call it a bloodbath is to cheapen the term. In the space of six weeks, roughly 120,000 American troops were hit with 25,000 of them killed. In six weeks.
The American commander, "Black Jack" Pershing, used tactics as subtle as a tire iron to the head, but it worked. By early November, the German army was reeling. The Armistice took effect 93 years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
Since then, World War I has faded from memory. Its veterans are all dead, and those who remember them are mostly gone. Yellowed pictures, dusty uniforms, spiked helmets - these are all we recall. Even the Red Baron has been distorted and commercialized.
The point here is that a generation was called and went. In 1941, 1950 they also went. Some disagreed in the 1960s, but enough went to give us a victory - that we pissed away. After that, it fell to the volunteers, and they have performed admirably. The prestige of American arms has never been greater -and the reputation of American politicians has never been lower.
Looking at the "Occupy" protesters, one cannot help but contrast their self-indulgent tantrums with the quiet sacrifices of the veterans. Let there be no mistake, military people are no saints (f they were, the JAGs would be unemployed). They expect to be paid and complain about everything (a time-honored tradition).
But they do their duty. They join to be part of something bigger than themselves and they yearn for the opportunity to prove that they are just as tough as those who went before.
The Occupiers want none of that. They want free wi-fi, guaranteed income and a life of unearned leisure. A half-hour of PT would leave them begging for death.
This Veterans Day, think about that contrast and what it says about those who choose to serve despite every reason not to. MSU's basketball game today on the USS Carl Vinson is a great example. I admire coach Tom Izzo, but his remarks about how sports pale in comparison to the military life are heartful and utterly appropriate.
Enjoy the game, and thank a veteran.