FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

My Grandfather’s Medal

by DAVE LINDORFF

 

My father, a World War II Marine veteran, stood in this past Memorial Day for a reawarding of a Silver Star to my grandfather at a ceremony hosted by the local American Legion in a small town in northeastern Connecticut. My grandfather died half a century ago, and over the years, the family had lost the medal, which my grandfather had received for bravery under fire during World War I, when he had served as an unarmed ambulance driver on the front lines in France.

It was, my father says, a moving service. My grandfather, William Lindorff, had never said much about his war experience or his obvious heroism. He had been an Army ambulance driver not because of some affinity for helping the wounded but because the xenophobic military brass didn’t trust him with a weapon: he’d been born in Germany and brought to America as an infant, making his loyalty suspect.

At any rate, he had earned that star back in a time when they weren’t just handing those things out to everybody and his brother who saw some kind of battle. He earned it in a genuine war, when the enemy was at least as powerful and well-equipped as were the Allies.

These days, everybody in a uniform is being called a hero. Every cop, every firefighter, every soldier. Even the kids who panic in Iraq and blow away whole families trying to flee the fighting, who shoot up ambulances like the one my grandfather drove, even the cops who chase down African immigrants and shoot them in the back, or who toss concussion grenades at old ladies in Harlem. No distinctions are made. They’re all heroes today. Talk about turning noble metal into dross.

The somber service at which my grandfather’s lost silver star was replaced stands in marked contrast to the cheap theatrics of President Bush at Arlington Cemetery that same day, where this AWOL National Guard drunkard once again, vampire like, tried, with the help of a complicit media, to suck some second-hand glory from the congealed veins of young men whose needless deaths he caused by his unprovoked assault on Iraq.

My great grandmother may have been a lifelong Eugene Debs-style socialist, but my grandfather was not a political guy. If he had been, he might have been one of those tens of thousands of desperate Bonus Marchers who, in the waning days of the Hoover administration, were teargassed and brutally attacked by U.S. troops led by Douglas McArthur, trying to get the government to make good on promises made to veterans. Instead, he quietly lost his house during the Great Depression, a victim of the same kind of feed-the-rich politics that are now gutting social programs and wrecking the once economy again.

There has always been jingoism, and there certainly were politicians in the years following World War I who tried to win votes by claiming to be friends of veterans like my grandfather, but nothing like we see today.

Now we have members of Congress singing “God Bless America” in their seats as they vote to strip funds from Veterans Administration programs and kill off VA hospitals. And we have a president who ducked his duty and avoided combat in Vietnam strutting around as if he were a veteran.

My grandfather wasn’t political, but I wonder if today, looking at the brazen, flag-waving hyporisy in Washington, he wouldn’t just turn in his medal, the way a number of Vietnam veterans did in the latter days of that war. Maybe not. My dad says he was quiet about it, but I’m sure he was proud of that medal, too.

Meanwhile, I suspect some of the soldiers now busy occupying Iraq will be ready for their own Bonus March after a few years have passed and they realize that the flag-waving politicians in Washington have gutted their retirement program, slashed their veterans benefits, and driven all their jobs south to Mexico and west to Asia.

If they do march again, this time they’ll be called terrorists, of course.

Even if they are wearing their medals.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff’s stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html

 

Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 20016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail