"AN IMPORTANT NEW MISSION FOR VETERANS"
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 1918, World War I finally came to an end. At the conclusion of that horrible blood bath, President Wilson declared it was the war that would "end all wars" and designated Nov. 11 as "Armistice Day."
After the Korean War, President Eisenhower changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor American vets from all of our wars. Unlike the vast majority of our presidents, Ike, having been a soldier, knew about war. He'd seen the results of two horror shows -- conflicts which together killed almost half a million American warriors long after the day Wilson declared war obsolete and ordered the immediate dismantling of our forces.
Ike had learned at West Point and on the field of strife that "only the dead have seen the last of war." He also learned as a soldier in 1940 and again 10 years later how pitifully prepared his army and his nation were to fight World War II and the Korean War.
Since 1914, tens of millions of humans have become war casualties in virtually every corner of what is euphemistically called the "civilized" world. And in the next century, we can only expect more of the same senseless killing.
At the end of the most blood-spattered century in history, war remains the only way our "advanced society" resolves conflict. Plato was right. War won't go away. And even the dumbest guy or gal in the class knows that the only way to stop war -- or at least reduce the number of historical dates of infamy such as Pearl Harbor -- is for our nation to be always prepared for war.
What worries me is that our politicians never learn from the past. Since just after the War of Independence, they've always made the same mistakes: never being ready when the sucker punch is swung; then rushing to build a costly and powerful winning military machine; and then after victory, letting the cycle start again by allowing the Wilsons, Trumans, Bushes and Clintons to destroy the mighty sword that cut up the bad guys without any consideration for the next contenders already training for their shot at the winner.
The only American group that really knows about war is our vets. But sadly, once most vets take off their uniforms, they stick their heads in the sand and allow the non-vet politicians to either dangerously shorten or, as in the case of Clinton over the past seven years, badly dull our military sword.
Vets certainly have the numbers to stop the politicians from this negligence and ensure that our forces are ready for war. By some estimates there are more than 35 million living vets who've served or are now serving.
Imagine if these vets banded together and demanded that we learn from the past. And that we arm and equip our soldiers and sailors with the best equipment available, ensure they're trained to a razor's edge before the battle, are only led by the finest warrior leaders and that the conflict in question is always a matter of national security.
Imagine if they as a group insisted our politicians explain why our forces today are stretched around the world doing Meals On Wheels and Salvation Army work instead of preparing to defend America and our interests.
Imagine if they asked why our serving soldiers and sailors are required to take the Anthrax inoculation. Many of them believe it has dangerous side effects and that they're being used as guinea pigs the way their brothers and sisters were during Desert Storm. Imagine if 35 million vets took the time to write to their representatives in Washington demanding that the politicians volunteer to take the shots before they're given to the troops.
Imagine if this potentially powerful lobby group that has "been there and done that the hard way" demanded that our armed forces be organized now for the wars of the 21st century rather than another crossing of the Delaware River under a latter-day George Washington.
Our vets have earned their right to sound off. They have a potentially powerful voice, and they should learn to exercise it. Then Veterans Day would make a lot more sense and have a far greater impact.