Veterans Day 2019
Last year, I did a post on World War I for Veterans Day as it had been 100 years, exactly, since the end of that war. I also covered how other countries memorialize and/or celebrate and, ended the post with two poems. I’ve written in a previous post about my almost Army brat status and referred to my significant other in this post.
Ken’s first foray into the ‘military’ was the Hargave Military Academy in Virginia. His mother sent him there for summer school to assist with grades after a poor eighth grade year. He stayed for his ninth grade year and did very well. Unfortunately, it was extremely expensive and he returned to regular high school for tenth grade.
At the end of his junior year, he’d had enough of regular high school and made it clear to his mother that he wanted to go into the Navy. The military was all he was interested in. So, at the tender age of 17, his mother signed him into service. He went into the reserves for two years and began to train as a Corpsman. His sea duties were aboard the USS Robinson (DD-562), a Fletcher Class destroyer, the second ship in the Navy to be named after Captain Isaiah Robinson (Continental Navy). The “Robbie” received eight battle stars for World War II service and appeared in the movie Away All Boats.
After two years of training, he went active duty…and the Navy lost its mind. Orders to report to his new ship in hand, he was sent to Charleston, SC, to be assigned to the USS Canisteo (AO-99), a Cimarron Class fleet oiler, named for the Canisteo River in New York and the only ship to bear that name. It’s crew received nine medals.
Unfortunately, upon his arrival, there was no ship to board. The Charleston Naval Base had no record of it being there and, in the meantime, he was sent to the transit barracks. While waiting, he volunteered to be a lifeguard for a week. The remaining time was spent waiting at the barracks. After three weeks, the Navy adjusted his orders and sent him to Norfolk Naval Base, the home port of the Canisteo. Upon arrival, no ship. He was, again, assigned to the transit barracks…until they could find the ship. After a four-day wait, the Navy adjusted his orders a second time and he was sent to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard. The shipyard had no record of the Canisteo being there so, he was sent…a-gain…to the transit barracks. His ship was finally found at the Todd Shipyards in Red Hook Brooklyn, a civilian shipyard. With his orders in hand (now, a rather large portfolio of paperwork), stamped by the Navy (adjusted a third time), he headed to his ship. He reported to the Officer of the Deck and was told that he had been reported AWOL. The OOD examined the orders, informed him that his Corpsman striker slot had been filled due to his (unintended) absence and, just like that, he was transformed into part of the deck force, wiping out two years of training. He became a Bosun’s Mate striker. *facepalm*
He left active service in 1964 and rolled into the IRR, waiting for the end of his contract to expire. On March 8, 1965, Marines landed near Da Nang, marking the beginning of the ground war in Vietnam. Ken was working a full time job and was watching what was going on. By the summer of 1966, he decided that he was going to go back to the Navy, interested in the River Patrol (and PBRs) and went to see a prior service recruiter. The recruiter told him that the Navy would not give him his rank back. Ken left his office and was stopped by a Marine recruiter in the hallway. He told him to go back in and ask about the Seabees. He did so and the Navy prior service recruiter changed his tune. Off he went to Camp Endicott in Rhode Island for training. He was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 and sent to Gulfport, Home of the Seabees.
He arrived in Vietnam in July of 1967. His base was Camp Haskins on Red Beach in Da Nang. The Marines were on Monkey Mountain across the bay and at Da Nang Air Base in the opposite direction, across the highway. At the beginning of the Tet Offensive, the bombing of the Air Base in January of 1968 nearly knocked Ken out of a guard tower. He was designated a builder and did his share of such but, spent most of his time running patrols with the Marines.
On November 3, 1967, a fellow Seabee had an accident with a saw while cutting some wood. A sawhorse shifted and the man injured himself, accidentally. The blade cut an artery in his thigh and Ken’s Corpsman training kicked in. He, literally, stuck his hand into the guy’s thigh to clamp the artery with his thumb and forefinger. When the rescue helicopter arrived, the coagulated blood on Ken’s arm prevented him from being able to remove his hand from the guy’s thigh. Ken got a free ride in the helicopter to the hospital with his charge. A life was saved (the actual details are pretty gruesome).
And, this concludes my long-ass tribute to my Fleet Navy/Vietnam Seabee veteran. If you have a veteran in your life…hug them. ~Vic
[Addendum: When I moved in with Ken some years ago, I was looking at his DD-214. He swore he only had one and I saw from the data that he had two. We sent off for his records and, sure enough, there were two. I discovered that, when he went to the prior service recruiter, the guy didn’t bother to check to see if Ken was still on contract. He was and, had he checked, Ken could have returned to the Navy, with rank intact, and left for Vietnam as part of the Brown Water Navy…and most likely died. The life span of PBR guys was fairly short.]
Story Sunday: War & Remembrance 1918
“On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the guns fell silent.”
[Note: This is not a post to re-visit the actual war or discuss the minute details of every event. I will leave that to the historical scholars.]
One hundred years ago, today, the “war to end all wars” came to an end with the signing of the final Armistice in a railroad car in Compiègne, France. The Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire had signed the previous three. This was not the actual surrender as the Treaty of Versailles formally ended the entire war. Signed on June 28, 1919, the treaty was on the exact day, five years later, of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
The last shot fired, closing WWI, was by the American soldiers of Battery E, 11th Field Artillery and a Schneider Howitzer named Calamity Jane.
“The first minute of silence was to indicate gratitude for those who had returned alive…the second to remember the fallen.”
Edward George Honey, an Australian journalist, was the gentleman whom first proposed a moment of silence. The two-minute silence, practiced today, originated in Cape Town, South Africa, via that town’s then Mayor, Sir Harry Hands.
Remembrance Day or, Poppy Day, is the memorial day observed in the Commonwealth of Nations and many non-Commonwealth countries and, evolved from the Armistice Day. Remembrance Sunday is observed by the UK and Commonwealth nations on the Sunday closest to November 11. Armistice Day is the primary holiday in France, Belgium and Serbia. Serbian people wear Natalie’s Ramonda instead of the poppy. The French wear the Bleuet de France, a Cornflower.
♢ Poland celebrates their National Independence Day on November 11.
♢ Italy celebrates their Armistice of Villa Giusti on November 4.
♢ The Republic of Ireland recognizes Armistice & Remembrance Day but, their National Day of Commemoration on the Sunday nearest July 11 is a reflection of their Irish War of Independence that started two months after the Armistice was signed.
♢ Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway and Spain were neutral and, have no specific WWI observances.
♢ Germany has a Peoples Day of Mourning covering all armed conflicts, observed on the Sunday closest to November 16.
We, here in the U.S., at the behest of several veterans organizations, changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all veterans, regardless of a specific war. It is a national holiday and different from Memorial Day (last Monday in May), which honors those whom died while serving and, Armed Forces Day (also in May but, the third Saturday), honoring those currently serving.
In Flanders Fields
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.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
~Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Canadian Expeditionary Force
We Shall Keep The Faith
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
~Moina Michael, the “Poppy Lady”
American Professor, University of Georgia