Veterans' Day 2009 is coming November 11th. But for most vets it never gets here.
World War I, a tremendous slaughter, ended 11 AM, November 11, 1918. The United States Civil War was one of the first highly mechanized wars in the world where the killing power of soldiers was multiplied greatly from times gone by. The machine gun was new. That war was a slaughter also.
After WWI, the war to end all wars, we just keep on having wars. We have two and a half wars going now that are bankrupting our nation and ruining million of young people and killing so many men, women and children.
In 1924 Congress passed a bill that US veterans would receive $1.50 per day for each day they served during WWI. They were to collect the money in 1945. Congress probably figured most would be dead by '45.
The stock market crashed, the Depression hit and in 1932 over 15,000 poor vets and their families, many homeless, struggled to D.C. asking Congress and President Hoover for early payment of their $1.50 per day.
They never got it.
The House passed a bill giving them immediate payment. The Senate voted 62 to 18 to deny the early bonus. The vote wasn't even close. Vets and their family members tent camped just across the Anacostia River from the Capitol. A month later the Bonus army was still in DC marching. They stayed, wanting the bonus, and many had nowhere to go. A conflict with police occurred, guns fired, two marchers were killed.
Hoover ordered the Army to "remove" them. General MacArthur, Major Eisenhower and Major Patton's cavalry on horses and in tanks, and soldiers with fixed bayonets throwing tear gas did just that. They pushed the vets, women and kids from the Capitol to their camp across the river. Hoover ordered a halt. MacArthur disobeyed. Soldiers tore through the camp of 10,000 families, families fled, it was burnt, two babies died, many were wounded -- the bonus army was defeated by fellow military members and their own government. Small wonder Roosevelt won the November election.
Makes you sick? It does me.
As a member of Veterans for Peace, we try to work as hard to help make peace in this world as we did to help make war. We fail just like the Bonus Army did - but we keep trying.
My friend's son is back from the Middle East wars with serious injuries – PTSD and others. The NAACP ad says, "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." Well, it is also terrible to have your mind turn on you and try to "waste" you. I have another friend who is very active in progressive movements and I asked her one day what makes her so active. She said he husband came back from Vietnam with PTSD and has been afraid of leaving their home for the last 30 years.
These wars cost too much. But corrupt politicians and the military industrial complex, which President Eisenhower identified but did not have the courage to fight - just as he did not have the courage to fight MacArthur so many years ago at that camp of poor vets and their families, have us in their claws.
When will we ever throw them off? "When will we ever learn?" The nearly 10,000 members of Veterans for Peace in our nation do not intend to be blown away by the wind. We, and you, must fight to make our nation work for peace harder than we work for war.
We need to have every young person and all the 15 million unemployed serve our nation in a national service corps, trained, equipped and paid to work for peace in our own communities and across the world. Two or three years of paid hard work to help build a better world is what is needed from each of us.
We need a Department of Peace twice as big as our Department of War and cut military spending in half as a starter. We need to bring the troops home from the fiascos in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need to ask and empower the United Nations to come in and help clean up our mess in the Middle East. We need our Senate to not double cross us on healthcare for all as they double-crossed the millions of vets and their family members during the Great Depression. We need a president who leads us out of lost wars, back to the rule of law, helps our people rather than corrupt bankers, and punishes those who plan and conduct illegal wars and torture.
The call is great. Not answering the call will be a disaster for our nation.
Buzz Davis is a former VISTA Volunteer, Army officer, elected official from Stoughton, a retired state government planner. He trained as an Army infantry officer during the Vietnam War and served in S. Korea 1969-'70. dbuzzdavis at aol.com. Buzz is a member of the Clarence Kailin chapter of Veterans For Peace.