Hitting the Jackpot
November 10, 2006 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Htting the Jackpot A destitute post-World War II vet living in a shelter will receive $11,000, thanks to a man whose hobby it is to search old government claims' records. Tomorrow is officially Veterans' Day, formerly Armistice Day and best remembered by this poem written by this field surgeon. The line between Memorial Day and Veterans Day seems to have blurred over the years. Unfortunately, there are ever more veterans to remember, including those who have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan profoundly injured.
posted by etaoin (24 comments total)
You may have seen veterans selling red poppies outside of grocery stores, Targets, etc. My grandfather served in the Army and spoke frequently of the poppy fields. I asked my local veteran why he was selling poppies and he didn't know; I guess being from WWII he wasn't aware that we were fighting over the same fields as our WWI vets. Buy a poppy even if the vet selling them doesn't know why he's doing so.

PS The link to the poem needs editing to remove extraneous words.
posted by stonedcoldsober at 7:33 AM on November 10, 2006

Selling poppies really isn't anywhere near the deal in the US as it is in the UK and other Commonwealth nations.

Strangely, though, Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the US, not in the UK.

If you see an Iraq veteran, thank him. It's not his/her fault we started this mistake of a war.
posted by dw at 7:38 AM on November 10, 2006

Er. Thank him or her. Stupid English and its lack of gender neutral pronouns.
posted by dw at 7:39 AM on November 10, 2006

Oops, yes, here's the corrected link
to the poem.
posted by etaoin at 7:50 AM on November 10, 2006


Thank him for what exactly?

Volunteering to invade a sovereign nation without any real reason and blasting it to smithereens?
posted by Djinh at 7:58 AM on November 10, 2006

I thought the poppies were a reference to the morphine used in field amputations.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:02 AM on November 10, 2006


Did you wake up this morning and just feel like being a gigantic gaping asshole, or is kind of an always on thing for you?
posted by kbanas at 8:09 AM on November 10, 2006


Our military doesn't get to just say, "Nah, I don't want to do that." An order can only honorably be refused if it's grossly illegal, and that's a damn hard determination to make in the heat of combat. If your instincts told you three years ago that going into Iraq was a bad idea, you can pat yourself on the back for your good judgment and shut the hell up, because there's no reason to believe that the rank and file of the US military had any way to know for sure that this was going to be so bad or so pointless.

Servicemen & women don't get to pick and choose what they're going to do. They swear to follow orders and put their faith in the system in the hopes that we won't elect a chimp. The chimp that we have now isn't their fault. He's ours; he's the fault of the people that elected him, the party that brought him to power and the media that gave him cover while he screwed us all.

It's nice to see that you've got the balls to be a little snot while you're hiding behind a keyboard.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2006

Yesterday was my high school's Veteran's Day assembly. Just a couple of solemn slide shows, a little speech by the local Marine recruiter who clearly had to summon up as much courage to speak to a gym full of teens as he has to do pretty much anything else he does in his job. They then asked the veterans in the faculty (by name) to stand and be recognized. I got a card and a little basket of cookies. It was such a little thing, but I was really floored.

It really doesn't take much at all to show a vet your appreciation. Even hearing someone say "Happy Veteran's Day" can mean a lot. There are those who deserve it a hell of a lot more than I do.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:35 AM on November 10, 2006


No, it comes on only when I see people stupidly idolizing destructive and criminal armies.


Servicemen and women do get to pick and choose what they're going to do, just like the rest of us:

They choose to join the army, they choose to be part of an organisation that sends them to far away places to kill people.

Their choice. And a bad one at that, in my opinion.
posted by Djinh at 8:37 AM on November 10, 2006

Just following orders is not a valid defense.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:44 AM on November 10, 2006

The poppies of Flanders do not contain opium. The poppy has a number of symbolic references including that of sleep, a metaphor for death, though it can also be a symbol of fertility and renewed life. Poppies grow profusely, need no cultivating, and have a short life span - a visual reference to the numbers and mortality during the battles of WWI. The flowers themselves are thin, fragile, and easily damaged.
There is also the visual reference to the blood of the battlefield in the vivid colour of the flowers against the mud torn fields and blue skies of Flanders. Finally, poppies are among the first flowers to bloom after a field has been disturbed - perhaps hiding the reality of what is underneath.
posted by hannahkitty at 8:46 AM on November 10, 2006

Great story. Good to see someone's looking out for the vets.

And Djinh, some day I hope you find a cure for your two-toned thinking.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:18 AM on November 10, 2006

Strangely, though, Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the US, not in the UK.

It's not called "veterans day" in the UK, and would the UK have "federal" holidays?

It used to be called "Armistice Day" until 1945 when it was changed to commemorate the dead of all wars; as government offices are closed on Sundays anyway, making it a holiday would be somewhat meaningless. As the wikipedia article points out, since 1995 there are once again also ceremonies on armistice day itself.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:24 AM on November 10, 2006

I want to remember the Forty-Two Canadian Soldiers killed in Afghanastan since the mission there began in 2002.

Ironically, that's roughly the same number that Canada lost every day for four years of WWI.
posted by aclevername at 9:28 AM on November 10, 2006

Djinh: Just following orders is not a valid defense.

Yes, it is, unless as scaryblackdeath points out, the orders and manifestly and grossly illegal, a.k.a. war crimes. The veterans and active military who have placed themselves in harm's way, or been injured, maimed, or killed in the course of their duties, are heroic and are no more war criminals than you are guilty of child abuse for eating food that is a product of child labor.

Yes, the enterprise of war is usually directed with evil and criminal intent from the top, but that does not diminish the selflessness and sacrifice of military personnel.
posted by XMLicious at 10:01 AM on November 10, 2006

Djinh are you a pussy anarchist or a pussy pacifist? What kind of pussy are you?

PS Not saying all pacifists or anarchists are pussies.
posted by Mister_A at 10:30 AM on November 10, 2006

If your instincts told you three years ago that going into Iraq was a bad idea, you can pat yourself on the back for your good judgment and shut the hell up, because there's no reason to believe that the rank and file of the US military had any way to know for sure that this was going to be so bad or so pointless.

For awhile I corresponded with a soldier serving in Iraq. He'd also served in Afghanistan. He wrote that when they first invaded Iraq, the soldiers generally felt that they were doing something good, that they were getting rid of a bad guy. And it's accurate to say that they did so. But once Saddam's regime fell, they didn't know what they were doing or why they were there. He felt it had just become another Vietnam.

I bet that's representative of the rank and file soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, and you won't hear me criticizing them for what they have done.
posted by orange swan at 10:50 AM on November 10, 2006

It's not called "veterans day" in the UK, and would the UK have "federal" holidays?


But it is odd how 11/11 is a federal holiday in the US, while just a normal working day in the UK (unless it's a weekend).

Volunteering to invade a sovereign nation without any real reason and blasting it to smithereens?

Can I give you my nephew's phone number? He got back from his stint in Iraq this last summer. An MP running checkpoints. Nearly blown up twice by suicide bombers. He's apparently suffering from PTSD. Good kid. And not at all a conservative ideologue.

I'm sure he'd appreciate being told he made a poor choice and should have gone into debt up to his eyeballs to get his bachelor's degree instead.

And I could run through the litany of veterans in my family who bore the scars of many wars. But it's not worth it.

War is hell. War is sometimes necessary. War is sometimes not a choice. My nephew was against the Iraq war, and he still served, because that was his job. Ditto all my uncles who found themselves called for Vietnam.

Think about him. And think about all the kids poorer than him who had even fewer choices. The Army was the only way out of Podunkia, or their urban blight. The Army was the only way to get an engineering degree without swimming in debt for the next twenty years. The US military may be all volunteer, but most of these people don't choose it just so they can "defend freedom" or "kill ragheads" or "worship our president as a living god."

Again, hate the incompetent, arrogant leaders who got us into this mess. But it's not the fault of the common soldier. They have a job to do, even if it's a job of death, destruction, and chaos.
posted by dw at 11:05 AM on November 10, 2006

But it is odd how 11/11 is a federal holiday in the US, while just a normal working day in the UK (unless it's a weekend).

I've always thought that. Of course, the whole country used to stop for the two minutes silence, but not any more.

Is this the place to mutter something about preferring to wear a white poppy?
posted by jack_mo at 12:13 PM on November 10, 2006

In the UK it's known as Remembrance day, which (with a vague semblance of apology to any outraged Americans) I consider a superior name to "Veteran's day." I don't 'honour veterans', I remember those who had their lives taken from them for reasons good and bad, necessary and unnecessary. I doubt all that many of the dead would want to have been judged by us, I think they'd rather be remembered.

Of course, the opinions of the dead may vary.
posted by Luddite at 3:19 PM on November 10, 2006

But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.

If you don't believe this, visit the American cemeteries on the battlefields abroad. Or visit any of the veteran's hospitals in the United States. On a tour of the country, in the midst of which I am at the time of this writing, I have visited eighteen government hospitals for veterans. In them are a total of about 50,000 destroyed men – men who were the pick of the nation eighteen years ago. The very able chief surgeon at the government hospital; at Milwaukee, where there are 3,800 of the living dead, told me that mortality among veterans is three times as great as among those who stayed at home.

Boys with a normal viewpoint were taken out of the fields and offices and factories and classrooms and put into the ranks. There they were remolded; they were made over; they were made to "about face"; to regard murder as the order of the day. They were put shoulder to shoulder and, through mass psychology, they were entirely changed. We used them for a couple of years and trained them to think nothing at all of killing or of being killed.

Then, suddenly, we discharged them and told them to make another "about face" ! This time they had to do their own readjustment, sans [without] mass psychology, sans officers' aid and advice and sans nation-wide propaganda. We didn't need them any more. So we scattered them about without any "three-minute" or "Liberty Loan" speeches or parades. Many, too many, of these fine young boys are eventually destroyed, mentally, because they could not make that final "about face" alone.

In the government hospital in Marion, Indiana, 1,800 of these boys are in pens! Five hundred of them in a barracks with steel bars and wires all around outside the buildings and on the porches. These already have been mentally destroyed. These boys don't even look like human beings. Oh, the looks on their faces! Physically, they are in good shape; mentally, they are gone.

There are thousands and thousands of these cases, and more and more are coming in all the time. The tremendous excitement of the war, the sudden cutting off of that excitement – the young boys couldn't stand it.

That's a part of the bill. So much for the dead – they have paid their part of the war profits. So much for the mentally and physically wounded – they are paying now their share of the war profits. But the others paid, too – they paid with heartbreaks when they tore themselves away from their firesides and their families to don the uniform of Uncle Sam – on which a profit had been made. They paid another part in the training camps where they were regimented and drilled while others took their jobs and their places in the lives of their communities. The paid for it in the trenches where they shot and were shot; where they were hungry for days at a time; where they slept in the mud and the cold and in the rain – with the moans and shrieks of the dying for a horrible lullaby.

But don't forget – the soldier paid part of the dollars and cents bill too. -- Smedley Butler, USMC

posted by dhartung at 3:51 PM on November 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

The wearing of poppies was begun in the UK after WWI as a sign of remembrance. It was prompted by a poem by Canadian John McCrae In Flanders Fields. The first stanza goes:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

In the UK the annual Poppy Appeal is run by the Royal British Legion, which raises funds to support veterans.
posted by prentiz at 2:04 AM on November 11, 2006

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