Here in the U.S., it’s Memorial Day, a national holiday established long ago to commemorate the men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Even though my own long-dead father was himself a decorated Marine Corps vet and my brother-in-law is a veteran of the Gulf War, I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a while to separate my feelings about people who served in combat from my feelings about the wars in which they served — or about war in general. About the only time I feel warlike is when I’m listening to warlike metal. I think the last war that was worth fighting (for my country) was the one in Korea, and sometimes I’m not even sure about that one.
I did finally realize what should be obvious to people smarter than me — that soldiers and sailors and airmen do not start wars or decide which wars are worth fighting. They simply do their duty, and they become maimed, suffer mental trauma, and die because of decisions made by others who put them in harm’s way. They deserve to be honored for reasons that have nothing to do with whether the causes in which they sacrifice themselves are worth their sacrifices. They deserve to be remembered and supported even when the conflicts in which they have served are insupportable.
Memorial Day should be a day not only for remembering the dead but also for remembering the living — not only people who are currently serving in the Armed Forces but also veterans. The U.S. has done a piss-poor job of supporting its military veterans. Our government is willing to spend trillions of dollars to finance wars and huge defense establishments, but what we spend to support people after they’ve served their purpose and been discharged — especially those who have been disabled during their service — is shameful.
We used to have a military draft in the U.S. It was discontinued in 1973 following the end of the Vietnam War, and since then we’ve had an all-volunteer military force. I’ve seen and heard arguments that since the abolition of the draft, people in the military have made their own choices to serve, with full knowledge of the potential consequences, as if this somehow justifies the neglect of the needs of veterans that has regularly occurred over the last 40 years. Frankly, that kind of argument makes me want to puke.
I think it’s a fiction, for example, to say that people whose tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan were repeatedly extended really knew what they were getting themselves into. And even if they did, the fact remains that people in combat units don’t pick the fights, but they sure as hell pay the price for decisions made by politicians who supposedly make those decisions on behalf of the rest of us. As individuals, they may not be any better or worse than you or me, but they’re being exposed to perils that the rest of us rarely if ever encounter, and they’re doing it because someone decided it was in our country’s best interests. Whether those decisions were wise or foolish, we should support the people whose duty is to carry them out.
I should add that, in my humble opinion, the converse isn’t true: Supporting people in the Armed Forces doesn’t mean automatically supporting the wars they may be called upon to fight. I have gotten so sick of politicians who wave the flag and use our troops as a means of rallying support for ill-conceived military adventures and who suggest that people who criticize the wars we fight are undermining military men and women whose lives are at stake. Sometimes the best way we can support our Armed Forces is to get them the fuck out of military engagements that are not worth their lives.
I know we have some active military people among the readers of this blog, stationed both in the U.S. and overseas, and it makes me happy to think that we’re providing some occasionally worthwhile distractions for people in the services. Just today, I got an e-mail from a sergeant who’s seen two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, and has one more Afghan tour ahead of him. He said he had gotten into metal in part through reading about a movie called The Messenger on this site (through a review written by one of my former NCS comrades, IntoTheDarkness) and then watching the movie repeatedly and listening to its music. He wondered what song was being played in the movie during a scene when Ben Foster’s character punches a wall after learning that his sweetheart was marrying another guy (the song apparently can also be heard about 12 minutes into the film).
I haven’t seen that powerful movie in a while and couldn’t remember what music was playing at those times. I checked out a complete list of the songs from the soundtrack and only recognized two metal songs — “Drought” by Pelican (from the Australasia album) and “Profits of Doom” by Clutch (from Blast Tyrant) — but I’m not sure either of those is the correct answer. If anyone out there happens to know, please leave a comment.
Well, I guess I’ve rambled on enough about Memorial Day and what it means to me. I hate to publish anything for this site that doesn’t include some metal, but I’ve had a hard time coming up with something that felt right to me, particularly because, despite what some people seem to think, Memorial Day really isn’t about celebrating war or “patriotism” or bullshit “my country right or wrong” ideology– it’s about remembering the fallen.
Finally, I decided to stream those two songs mentioned above, plus one more called “Von”. It’s by an Icelandic band named Dynfari, and that seemed fitting since we began today’s posts with Phro’s review of music from Iceland’s Azoic. It’s also a peaceful, melancholy song, sort of like a metal version of Taps. The whole album is really good, though it’s definitely different in tone from this intro track (“atmospheric black metal” is a fair description of it). You can hear and download the whole thing at Dynfari’s Bandcamp page.
Pelican: “Drought”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/02-Drought.mp3|titles=Pelican – Drought]
Clutch: “Profits of Doom”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/02-Profits-of-Doom.mp3|titles=Clutch – Profits of Doom]
Dynfari: “Von”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Dynfari-Dynfari-01-Von.mp3|titles=Dynfari – 01 Von]
As always, feel free to leave a comment and agree with me, call me a dick, or just share any other thoughts you have about the subject matter of this post or the music.
Not a fan of war, but I have nothing but respect for soldiers. Living in Japan, you occasionally run into young, brash fools, but I can say at least 90% of the soldiers and seamen I’ve met have made me proud to know them.
I just wanna say thanks and stay safe to anyone serving or who has served.
(Also, I had no freaking clue it was memorial day. Good job, Islander.)
So I guess they don’t have U.S. Memorial Day on Japanese calendars. I wonder why that is?
They could for all I know. I never look at calendars…fuckers piss me off with their smug squares and shit.
It is I who should be saying thank you to you!
So, thanks, and if you’re ever in the area, let me. I think I owe you a beer.
Sorry, it is WE. Oops.
I find it refreshing to read this. This is my thoughts about soldiers as well. We here in Denmark do a little more for our soldiers than you guys do, but it is still not nearly enough. I have many friends who have served in Afghanistan, and most of them have returned with their mind fully intact, but I also have two friends who kinda lost it all when they returned. One of them have fallen to drugs, and the other is a nervous wreck.
So thank you for this! I wish we would honor our soldiers the same way you do!
Also, you’re a dick.
So glad I wasn’t in the middle of drinking something when I got to your last line. 🙂
Well.. You’re welcome 😀
@Islander great read!!! I have so much respect for soldiers (my father fought in Vietnam) the thing is that war= profits and interest of politicians and the consequences are the death of those that fight to protect everyone else. Here in Dominican Republic, they do not celebrate it, regardless is good to see that people care about their soldiers.
This summs it up perfectly for me, I couldn’t have said it better myself… “Memorial Day really isn’t about celebrating war or “patriotism” or bullshit “my country right or wrong” ideology– it’s about remembering the fallen.” Thanks Islander!!
Whenever I think of government celebrations like “Memorial Day”, “Armistice Day” or any holiday celebrating wars, I think of the Sodom song “Remember the Fallen” http://youtu.be/xzyOD6QhbjI and the lyrics of that song perfectly describes my opinion about this matter.
“Honour the fallen heroes
See their last resting place
Perished in the battle of nations
Where they found eternal peace
Do you know the use of their decorations?
Awarded for patriotism
They left their life in fire
But don’t know even why
To the command of despotic dictators
They marched to fight in a senseless war
Most of them were just puppets and children
The battle was lost before it began”
I meant to comment separately. I was trying to think of something relevant to say, but honestly I don’t need to and anything more would be vainglorious.
So again, Thanks.
I have a lot of respect for most that do serve to choose. I once considered signing up, but I decided not to; just not my thing (the pressure from my grandmother didn’t help). Note, I said I have respect for most that serve.
There are assholes in the armed forces that I do not feel are worthy of respect, and not just limited to the knuckle draggers that think that the fact that they’re in the military and that I’m not makes them somehow better than me. I also think that standards have been lowered a bit too much (much like with the police in many areas), allowing for more than the usual handful of idiots that are to be expected to be among a large amount of people. While there have always been problematic people in the military, I find it alarming how much shit goes on these days. Or maybe it always has and having 24/7 news channels, FOIA and the internet have made it more visible. But it’s not hard to see that the military isn’t like it used to be.
But enough about the bad guys with guns on the government’s payroll. It’s the good guys that are the reason for this day – and it shouldn’t just be today (or Veteran’s Day either). These men and women willingly serve, knowing that they can be called to action, go somewhere they may not want to go and may have to kill another person before they themselves get killed. They don’t get to call the shots, they go where they’re told to go, sometimes because they’re actually needed, sometimes because someone with a higher pay grade decided it was a good idea. And for all the bad stuff that goes on and questionable motives for deploying, soldiers do a lot of good. Unfortunately, the news doesn’t tend to report the good stuff that our men and women may do; sex, violence and bad news sell better.
As I said, I chose not to serve. Wasn’t for me. My grandfather was in WWII (Pacific theater) and was awarded a purple heart. My uncle served in the Navy, but was killed by a drunk driver shortly after his 21st birthday. One of my bosses was in the Air Force and might have gone career if not for a certain asshole, another was in the Army, another in the Marines. I’ve heard good stories more often than bad.
And like you, Islander, I feel it’s a shame that vets get treated the way they do. I thought our military was supposed to be viewed with higher regard than that. Instead, vets go homeless, go years without needed medical care (a guy I knew that was a jet mechanic in the Korean war waited for years to get a kidney transplant, didn’t even come close to getting one) or have to hold down more than one job (or return to work after retiring) just to try to make ends meet.
I have a couple friends in the military. I hope they stay safe. Thanks to anyone serving, and I hope you stay safe as well.
Thank you for the post.
I marched in a Memorial Day Parade here in Denver. I was behind a Color Guard. I saw several homeless along the route stand and salute as the flags went by (even a guy in a wheel chair, holding himself upright with one arm while he saluted with the other). I remember thinking they should be the ones in the parade.
A little late chiming in, but here’s my take on Memorial Day and honoring vets in general. I DON’T BELIEVE IN IT! And this is why; it seems like every time the news does a story featuring wounded vets (as so many did over the weekend) you hear these men and women talk about how they *sacrificed* and *gave all* for this country and its citizens….then they want us all the throw them a pity party or bend on one knee and kiss their ass for having served. This is where my issue lies. YOU GOT PAID TO FIGHT THE GOD DAMN WAR!!! I could understand reeeeeeally appreciating their service if they had no other choice, but THEY signed up for that shit! They signed up and took a paycheck to go fight. Many enlisted AFTER the wars were already ongoing, knowing full well they were going to see combat. You got paid, military dudes. Don’t wine about it or demand our sympathy. And on that same note, I feel the same way about police. I AM the police and I would never ever be caught making comments of *well, I put myself in harms way to protect all of you, so you better show me some appreciation and kiss my ass.* No, I chose to put myself there. I’m getting PAID for it. I would never, ever ask for others to bow before me and say *oh, thank you mr. officer man for risking your life for all of us.* I knew it was dangerous when I signed up. And when other cops talk about how they should be honored and respected for putting themselves in harms way for the greater good, it invokes my gag reflex. You signed up for it, douche bag. you’re getting paid. That’s all the thanks you need or deserve.
I think the real goal is just to make sure we dont get spit on. Which you’ve probably experienced more than me in your line of work. Its not just about the money. I think it should be more about the mutual respect. Like, you should be respected by the residents of the community you work in in vice-versa. If there wasnt a modicum of that, it’d be more like fear policing like gestapo or something. In our case, if we didnt have mutual respect between our citizens, we’d be nothing more than killing machines. The whole pay for play attitude just dehumanizes the whole thing. We’re not machines, we’re your brothers sisters, son’s daughters, your friend from down the block, the guy on your old baseball team, your neighbors.
And to be sure, none of us ever asks to be “bowed down to.” (never got where people get that from.) If there’s any real grievance we have, its the medical compensation after injury (mental or physical) that so many have been deprived of. In other words, we get paid to do this, the issue is we dont get paid correctly when calamity befalls us. (The correlation between an increased casualty survivor rate and the increase of debilitating/maiming injuries by IEDs presents a new type of post-trauma situation that old DOD policy simply wasn’t adequate enough to address).
But beyond that, Memorial Day is supposed to be the remembrance of those already passed. The sharing of history to future generations is what’s really important. Nobody gives a shit about a tickertape parade.
Thank you for your civil service.
Well said. But now you bring up another element I take issue with, psychological trauma. This is why I respect ww2 vets so much. Those guys are hard as fucking steel! They went and fought the Nazi’s, got gassed, shot up, shelled for days on end, bared witness to the most dehumanizing conditions when they liberated death camps…and then they came home, put on their clothes every morning, went to work and generally speaking, just shut the fuck up. They didn’t wine or complain about seeing any of that shit. They sucked it up, made families, contributed to society and dealt with it. After Nam…..all these cry babies started getting all butt hurt over their feelings of inadequacy. There wasn’t a draft that I’m aware of. You signed up knowing you were going to a war zone. Don’t come home and then cry after the fact about being exposed to it. Its over. Shut the fuck up and be a productive member of society. You’ll go no sympathy from me.
WWII vets were deeply traumatized as well. What we call PTSD always existed (they called it battle fatigue at the time.) But then, that was the last morally clear war. Vietnam fucked up everything for everybody, the nature o the combatants (civilians, children) and no decisive plan. As warfare has changed its making these things more evident, but don’t think for a second that the guys back then were suffering to. Besides back then it was a “simpler” battlefield environment. One conventional formation versus another. Now you have 24 year olds making decisions about entire villages and communities that have very real political consequences that could change the course of entire campaigns (Koran burning, airstrike killing children accidentally.) There are entirely new stressors on soldiers the likes of which we have never seen. Its not like it was before. Post traumatic stress is not a new junk science. It is a long historied human condition.
Well written, friend. Regardless of my personal opinions on The War(s), I have friends and family fighting in them. Some have ideologies, some got in over their heads; some believe in the cause, and some feel like they’ve been fucked. but they get up every morning, away from their loved ones, in shitty situations, and do their job – I can’t even say that about myself. to all my friends, come home safe – we miss you. to the fallen, mahalo – see you on The Mountain.