Tag: history (page 1 of 2)

Lest We Forget

American flag

I know this is a rehash of a previous post. I’m not altering a word in or after the block quote. I believe that these ideas are worth repeating, because we’re talking about people who voluntarily walk into warzones and don’t necessarily walk back out; if they do, chances are, they will never be the same.

I tend to run a post that reads like this when a posting date falls on Memorial Day:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

We have the country we have today because people got pissed off enough to fight for it.

America’s military is based entirely on volunteer service. People enlist for various reasons, from pure-hearted desire to serve the country to paying for a college education. And those who can already afford college can embark upon a career as an officer right from the start. The important fact, though, is that none of it is compulsory. Nobody is making these young men and women sign up for service that could ultimately mean they’re going to die far from home, in some foreign land, possibly alone with no one to remember them save for a line item in a report listing them as “Missing In Action”.

Other countries compel their citizens to join the military from an early age. There’s no choice in the matter. Regardless of how you feel about your country, you’re going to be serving in its military. As much as I admire Heinlein, the idea of compulsory military service being the only route to citizenship is a pretty scary one. But unless I’m mistaken, no country has gone completely that far yet.

Here, though, every person who puts on that uniform, male or female, young or old, gay or straight, left or right, does so for the same reason. They want to serve. They chose to answer the call to duty. Nobody made them.
And if they died on a foreign shore, they did so as the ultimate result of that choice. As lonely, painful, cold and dark as it might have been for them, it is a deep hope of mine that they do not consider themselves forgotten.

We have not forgotten.

Read the rest here

It may seem we have forgotten to some veterans, though. If they make it home, they tend to bear scars, and not always obvious ones. It’s shamefully easier to sympathize with a soldier who’s lost a limb or suffered major facial trauma than it is one who seems intact in body but says nothing about what’s going on in his or her mind.

These are people who, because of a choice they made, have stared death in the face, and been told, ordered, demanded not to flinch.

We hold soldiers in high esteem. Most see them as brave or even fearless. But they’re human beings, just like you and me. They have our doubts, our fears, our weaknesses. They, like us, are mortal. They’re going to die, and some die on foreign shores because they’re told to be there.

They fight for us anyway, and that’s what makes them great, and worth remembering.

I don’t have any particular charity or cause to champion here, nor do I know how easily one can get to some place like Walter Reed to see what becomes of those who only partially make it home. All I ask is that you remember them, not just today, but every day.

Movie Review: Good Morning, Vietnam

“GOOOOOOOOOOOOD MORNING VIETNAM! It’s Oh-Six-Hundred, what does the Oh stand for? OH MY GOD IT’S EARLY!”

I don’t think the 1987 Barry Levinson film Good Morning, Vietnam needs any introduction beyond that.

Courtesy Touchtone Video

Airman Adrian Cronauer, United States Air Force, was the main radio personality stationed in Crete in the 1960s. During the Vietnam War, he was transferred to run a morning program for Armed Forces Radio out of Saigon. He brought his own style, his comedic style, and a taste for modern rock-and-roll music. Unfortunately, his personality and energy run counter to those of his superiors. He does his best to maintain his independence and commitment to the truth, and starts befriending locals. Things begin to get complicated when he runs afoul of both a vindictive base commander and the mascinations of the Viet Cong. The troops love him, though – if there’s ever a time to be reminded of the importance of laughter, it’s wartime.

Before we delve into the people responsible for bringing Cronauer’s true story to life, we should take a step back and consider that this film, broadly considered a landmark comedy, also took it upon itself to depict the conflict in Vietnam in very human terms. When Cronauer isn’t cracking jokes over the radio and flipping off authority, he’s teaching people English slang and trying to get to know a local girl and her brother. None of these secondary characters are treated as parodies or charicatures. In a time when the United States was still wrestling with its conflict against Soviet powers, this film eschewed jingoistic viewpoints and presented both the Americans and the Vietnamese as what they are – human beings.

Courtesy Touchtone Video
Every character in this film feels very real.

Barry Levinson, Good Morning, Vietnam‘s director, was already a veteran film-maker in 1987. He worked with Mel Brooks, and had major success with The Natural. He clearly demonstrates that he has an excellent sense of balance and timing in his direction. The comedy that practically runs rampant through a great deal of the film is balanced out perfectly with character development and the aforementioned pathos. All of the shots are clear, and everything is clearly defined. But I feel I’m stalling a bit, so let’s get to the heart of the matter.

It is a great tragedy that we recently lost Robin Williams. This film is one of his best performances. Much like the direction, his work is very well balanced. When he’s on the radio or mouthing off, his comedy is fantastic and side-splitting. When he’s teaching people or trying to relate to his ladyfriend or her brother, he’s likeable and charming. And when he’s faced with adversity, we believe his agony and frustration. On top of his comedy skills and improvisation, he was a fantastic actor. We miss him already.

Courtesy Touchtone Video
His performances are, thankfully, immortalized.

Good Morning, Vietnam is a bonafide classic. It is a slice from the past that tells its story with authenticity and earnestness. Despite the fact that it’s told from an American perspective, it shows the conflict in a very human light and keeps us engaged from beginning to end. And the comedy is on-point and fantastic. It’s available on Netflix, and if you haven’t seen it, even if it’s been a while, you should call it up. It’s a fantastic watch.

The Million Dollar Scholar

Courtesy Silent Warrior Scholarship Fund

Back on Memorial Day I mentioned that while we remember the struggles, we sometimes forget the veterans. There are ways to avoid this, to show our support for those who have fought on our behalf, to tell these brave and damaged souls that we have not forgotten them.

One of them is being organized by a friend. It is called The Million Dollar Scholar, and it’s an effort to raise funds for the tuition of young men and women whose parents served as members of the United States Marine Corps. To do this, the Scholar folks are carrying heavy things long distances. They participate in GoRuck challenges, and the more you donate, the more they trek. Learn more about the challenges here.

Give the fundraiser some thought. Consider this or other ways to support our veterans. Nobody returns from the battlefield the same as when they left. Some carry scars invisible to the naked eye. They deserve all we can give and more besides.

Memento Mori

American flag

For two years running I’ve made the same post on Memorial Day, which starts something like this:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

We have the country we have today because people got pissed off enough to fight for it.

America’s military is based entirely on volunteer service. People enlist for various reasons, from pure-hearted desire to serve the country to paying for a college education. And those who can already afford college can embark upon a career as an officer right from the start. The important fact, though, is that none of it is compulsory. Nobody is making these young men and women sign up for service that could ultimately mean they’re going to die far from home, in some foreign land, possibly alone with no one to remember them save for a line item in a report listing them as “Missing In Action”.

Other countries compel their citizens to join the military from an early age. There’s no choice in the matter. Regardless of how you feel about your country, you’re going to be serving in its military. As much as I admire Heinlein, the idea of compulsory military service being the only route to citizenship is a pretty scary one. But unless I’m mistaken, no country has gone completely that far yet.

Here, though, every person who puts on that uniform, male or female, young or old, gay or straight, left or right, does so for the same reason. They want to serve. They chose to answer the call to duty. Nobody made them.
And if they died on a foreign shore, they did so as the ultimate result of that choice. As lonely, painful, cold and dark as it might have been for them, it is a deep hope of mine that they do not consider themselves forgotten.

We have not forgotten.

Read the rest here

It may seem we have forgotten to some veterans, though. If they make it home, they tend to bear scars, and not always obvious ones. It’s shamefully easier to sympathize with a soldier who’s lost a limb or suffered major facial trauma than it is one who seems intact in body but says nothing about what’s going on in his or her mind.

These are people who, because of a choice they made, have stared death in the face, and been told, ordered, demanded not to flinch.

We hold soldiers in high esteem. Most see them as brave or even fearless. But they’re human beings, just like you and me. They have our doubts, our fears, our weaknesses. They, like us, are mortal. They’re going to die, and some die on foreign shores because they’re told to be there.

They fight for us anyway, and that’s what makes them great, and worth remembering.

I don’t have any particular charity or cause to champion here, nor do I know how easily one can get to some place like Walter Reed to see what becomes of those who only partially make it home. All I ask is that you remember them, not just today, but every day.

The New Mythology

Joseph Campbell

Some of our stories are hundreds or even thousands of years old. Every once in a while, a book or TV series will claim it has an ‘all-new’ story, but in reality most of the plot points and character turns have probably been told before. This is likely not a conscious decision of the writer, and it in no way dilutes the deeper truth the story strives towards, but it cannot be denied that the roots of most stories run very deep into our past.

Mankind has been telling stories since before language was something you wrote. Around fires and in caves, they relayed tales of great hunts, related how rivals were overthrown, and wondered about dreams and the world beyond what they knew. People wanted to learn about the triumphs and tragedies of others, and sharing these experiences enhanced them, gave them weight, and made them timeless. While more than a few of these simple, primal stories may have had some details forgotten, threads of them can be seen here and now, in the 21st century.

Themes and patterns such as the hero’s journey and good men struggling against their own natures as much as they do a rival or the elements persist because they still have something to teach us. Just as the ancient civilizations of the world found inspiration in their gods and champions, so too do we find it in big screen heroes and, occasionally, the actors who portray them. Myths have always been stories larger than life, speaking in broad terms to draw in as many minds as possible, and at the core of many you will find one of those timeless threads. The hero may be looking for his own identity in the face of a world that wants to redefine or obscure it. A good man is betrayed by a friend because of jealousy or greed. Tragedy causes someone to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of justice. None of these ideas are new, but the fact that they continue to captivate us means they are not without merit.

Our new myths connects us to the old, entertaining and educating and provoking us to think just as they have for thousands of years. Your message is still important, even if someone else has conveyed it before. What’s new about that message is how you convey it. Stories may share common elements but your voice is unique. Let it be heard. The new mythology needs new myth-makers, new storytellers to keep our stories going further into the future. Are you going to be one of them?

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