Post for Memorial Day (Day Late)

May 26, 2009

My father served in the military during World War II as a sergeant in India. The United States feared that Japan would invade India. As Japan invaded other places than India, my father was not exposed to combat.

He once said to me, “I learned that there is the right way to do something; the wrong way to do something; and the Army way to do something. God help you if you are in the United States Army and do it some other way than the Army way.”

My youngest brother enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as a weatherman. He did not serve at a time where he would have been in danger of being exposed to combat. After he left the Navy, he did nothing in regard to the weather. A couple of years ago, he left home in the middle of the night and wandered the streets until picked up by the police. He was subsequently diagnosed as bi-polar. Perhaps he was under the weather.

During the Vietnam War, I was called up for the draft. I passed the physical exam. I passed the mental exam. [Why?] The birth of my daughter made me eligible for a deferment. I took the deferment but resisted the urge to name my daughter “Deferment.”

I don’t feel guilty for not serving in Vietnam For one thing, I would have been the wost soldier in the history of the United States military. However, I don’t feel great about it either when I think about the thousands of Americans who were drafted and who enlisted, many of whom were killed, many of whom were injured, and many of whom had their lives disrupted and damaged.

The only other relative I know of who served in the military was my mother’s stepfather, Alex, whom I remember as a dour, taciturn man who owned and drove an old school bus instead of a automobile as his personal vehicle when he and my grandmother retired to California after selling their farm in Indiana.

My mother said that Alex had served in the Russian army during World War I, where he spent most of his time as a soldier trying to stay as far away from combat as he could.

I always thought of him as a sort of Ukrainian Corporal Švejk, the leading character in the Catch-22 of the First World War, The Good Soldier Švejk.

Information about the novel.

New translation.

Background about new translation.

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3 Responses to “Post for Memorial Day (Day Late)”

  1. woo Says:

    I think its a necessary condition of war and the whole ‘dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’ thing to feel conflicted about it. Our society still makes heroes and still ostensibly values honour and courage and self-sacrifice (but only as long as someone else does it), but equally we are all taught about the futility and waste of war.

    My grandfather served in WWII and was shot down and held as a POW in Europe for several years. A more gentle and unassuming man I can’t imagine. My father served in the RAF for 40 years and never saw combat, a fact for which I don’t believe he is completely thankful. As he puts it “I trained my whole adult life and never got to find out if I could really do it.”

  2. modestypress Says:

    The Friendly Neighbor told me a very moving story today that touches on this theme. I will tell it as soon as I get a chance. Probably not tomorrow as we have to go to the mainland and into town. We have had a treadmill disaster. Fortunately not a fatal one involving a small child (as in the case of Mike Tyson), but very rough on our finances. That also will come to your screen when I get a chance.

  3. Zenny Sadlon Says:

    The link to “Background about new translation” is broken. Try http://www.zenny.com/svejk/Chicago_Reader_Article.html


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