Memorial Day Reflections from US Veterans

May 25th, 2020 - by Buzz Davis, Philip Anderson, Bob Suberi / Veterans for Peace

“You bet I;m gonna be a soldier, too, like my uncle David, when I grow up.” (Cartoon by John T. McCutcheon, c 1900)

Memorial Day 2020

By Buzz Davis, Veteran

Dear Citizens: Another Memorial Day is here. This is a day some have sadness for those they lost or for those who went thru so much, are still here and may be damaged from their military service . . . .

Wars never seem to end because there are always humans of greed who find power and wealth in war.  Today as Iranian oil tankers churn toward Venezuela to provide much needed oil the a country blockaded by America and Pres. Trump has the US military trying to block Iran’s oil tankers, I am reminded of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Not good thoughts . . . . 

The present wars the US is in all over the world are not “good” or “just” wars.  They are illegal wars of aggression — illegal under our Constitution, our laws, our signed treaties and the United Nations Charter.  Perpetrators of such wars should be impeached [qnd] . . . as a deterrent for future presidents and generals from waging such illegal wars.

As battlefield medical care continuously improves, the result is the young veterans of today and

I joined the Army in 1967 and certainly did NOT intend to go into the infantry. But once a person is in the military it can do with you what it wishes . . . . I spent a year of my life training to kill people with every weapon you can think of . . . as an infantry officer. I was one of the lucky ones who did not go to Vietnam. They sent me to S. Korea. But I still ended up disabled with a bad back, lost hearing, [and] . . . for about 8 years I could not walk in a woods or meadow without thinking I needed to be heavily armed with a squad men behind me. 

Doing anything in the military can be dangerous.  It is a modern form of slavery.

If you have young people in your family or neighborhood who are considering joining the military, please talk with them. You or they may wish to go to for resources. There are many ways young people can help in America other than joining the military.

You may well regret NOT acting if your young person enters the military, is fortunate to live thru the experience and comes back home with a serious set of problems. Or the worst may happen — that most horrible knock at the door.

Tens of thousands have died. Have a Happy Veteran’s Day.

Misleading Stories On Memorial Day

By Philip Anderson, Petty officer first class US Navy Reserve Ret.

The stories we tell ourselves, and our children, shape our beliefs and our actions. On Memorial Day we eulogize veterans sacrificed in our many wars. We tell ourselves these brave Americans died to defend freedom and to keep us safe. But these stores are misleading, glorify war, promote militarism, and make the next war possible.

We have a widely held, but false, belief that the military is the reason we are free. But most of our wars have been about expanding territory, securing commercial advantage, or opposing other economic ideologies – not securing or defending freedom.

Our freedoms have been achieved, defended, and expanded by social and political activists. The abolitionists, suffragettes, civil rights workers, voting rights activists, labor union organizers, lawyers, whistle blowers, and other reformers are the real defenders of freedom, equality and justice. They struggled, and sometimes died, to make “freedom” a reality in voting, housing, employment, civil rights and many other practical aspects of society.

Unfortunately, most Americans believe the Memorial Day platitudes. Some say it is unpatriotic to question the common storyline. But if we don’t change our thinking, we will never stop having wars. Like many prior empires America will decline because of the costs of endless war. We must protect our children’s futures so they can live in a democracy.

We need to honor military service and sacrifices without promoting and glorifying war. Militarism is the problem — not veterans or military service. As citizens we need more realistic thinking and teaching about all the wonderful heroes in our nation’s history. There are SO many BRAVE people to thank for our freedom. 

Philip Anderson served 20 years in the Army, Army National Guard, and Naval Reserve. He is President of Veterans for Peace Chapter 80 in Duluth MN. 

Memorial Day 2020

By Bob Suberi, Veteran

. . .  Since 2001, 7,000 US military lives have been lost and over 6 trillion dollars spent prosecuting wars in the Middle East alone. The result is a trail of failed states and a quarter of a million civilian lives lost. I know what the politicians say but I doubt this is what soldiers gave their lives to produce.

The US has over 800 military installations around the world. We have terminated nuclear missile treaties, peace treaties and are exploring new avenues of war in space. Albert Einstein said, “You cannot prepare for war and peace at the same time.”

So I ask, do we better honor our fallen soldiers by pursuing peace or by developing new methods and weapons to prosecute war? In this democracy we, as its citizenry, are ultimately responsible for the actions of our government. Our representatives in the capital supposedly do our bidding. Implicit in the execution of that responsibility is the degree to which we honor our fallen heroes.

Bob Suberi was drafted into the Army (1968-71) and served as a communication technician in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. He is an activist with Veterans for Peace and volunteers at the St. Louis Veterans Administration.

There is no flage large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent civlilians.”

Humans Have Done Too Much Killing. Try Peace Now Before It’s too Late!

by Buzz Davis, Veteran

We approach Memorial Day honoring the ultimate sacrifices made by 1.4 million American military men and women who died in America’s wars since 1775. We must discuss the horrific impact of war on surviving soldiers and civilians. For only they can teach us working for peace is a better option than fighting wars.

Each death in war brings everlasting tragedy to a family.

Each death damages the hope of loved ones.

Humans are brutal. We have many wonderful traits. But we must admit to a brutal streak. And we must hope that we do not exhibit that trait ourselves and are not forced into situations where we too become brutal.

Historians view history as a long string of wars. The most destructive war thus far was World War II. Between 45 million and 85 million men, women and children perished in combat, destruction and resulting disease and famine.

Historians estimate 400 million to 680 million soldiers and civilians died in the largest 35 wars. Wars always kill far more civilians than soldiers.

This drawing and caption of children at the graveside of a Civil War relative killed at Gettysburg depicts our basic problem.

Because a relative served in a long ago war, many children especially boys are socialized into thinking being a soldier is the good thing to do.

Society (families, media, schools, movies, religions) encourage this, many times glorifying war. Recruiters prey on these emotions.

As a future infantry officer, I spent a year of my life being taught how to kill people (fortunately I was sent to S. Korea rather than S. Vietnam in 1969).

The military does an excellent job of training men and women to kill. But our generals have no idea of how to train/educate people to “unkill.” Many of our 22 million veterans who were in combat and had to participate in, or were near, the killing, deaths and maimings have memories and emotions they try to control all their lives. Most don’t discuss these memories at all or very much with family and friends. Such discussions are extremely difficult to have.

The veterans’ silence results in enabling power hungry politicians and greedy business persons to use the military industrial complex to push war as the “solution” to problems/challenges nations face.

The result of silence is that millions of veterans are not teaching their children, friends and community that war is not the answer. Killing does not solve problems. It just makes problems more difficult to resolve. You can’t kill a religious idea or political idea with a bullet.

The military teaches team work and being in the military and combat encourages camaraderie. But each vet is on his/her own when it comes to controlling or squashing the bad memories and thoughts.

America spends nearly $800 billion per year on wars, weapons and designing more weapons. We spend only $50 billion on the US State Department and the United Nations.

Nine nations have 15,000 nuclear weapons. Scientists say if just 1% of those weapons are exploded in a nuclear war, tens of millions would die in the first hour. Millions would die later from the radiation effects and fire storms. Firestorms, sweeping large areas creating dark dust clouds, would cause an extended winter of possibly 10 years with drastically shortened food growing cycles. Two billion would be threatened with famine. Life on earth, as we know it, would be gone.

For decades we have had politicians creating more wars instead of creating a more peaceful world via diplomacy, cooperation, helping other nations improve safe water supplies, educational systems, infrastructure, health, food production and strengthening the United Nations to help improve the lives of peoples across this world.

Small steps for America are: Veterans, especially combat veterans, need to discuss with their families some of what they did in “their” war. Or skip their personal experiences, if they cannot talk about it, and talk about the horrendous cost in lost lives. Vets can write letters to the editor of their local papers saying War Is Not the Answer and tell the readers what needs to be done.

Today our nation is controlled by Republican warmongers and meek Democratic followers. We must all think ahead to November 2020. We will have an opportunity to vote out of office those who foolishly advocate war. But right now we must talk about why we must fight harder for Peace than we do for War!

Buzz Davis is a long time progressive activist, a member of Veterans for Peace and a former VISTA Volunteer, Army officer, elected official, union organizer, impeachment organizer, VP of WI Alliance for Retired Americans and a retired state government planner.