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

 

More articles by:

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).

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castille’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
Binoy Kampmark
Death on the Road: Memory in Tim Winton’s Shrine
Tony McKenna
The Oily Politics of Unity: Owen Smith as Northern Ireland Shadow Secretary
Nizar Visram
If North Korea Didn’t Exist US Would Create It
John Carroll Md
At St. Catherine’s Hospital, Cite Soleil, Haiti
Kenneth Surin
Brief Impressions of the Singaporean Conjucture
Paul C. Bermanzohn
Trump: the Birth of the Hero
Jill Richardson
Trump on Cuba: If Obama Did It, It’s Bad
Olivia Alperstein
Our President’s Word Wars
REZA FIYOUZAT
Useless Idiots or Useful Collaborators?
Clark T. Scott
Parallel in Significance
Louis Proyect
Hitler and the Lone Wolf Assassin
Julian Vigo
Theresa May Can’t Win for Losing
Richard Klin
Prog Rock: Pomp and Circumstance
Charles R. Larson
Review: Malin Persson Giolito’s “Quicksand”
David Yearsley
RIP: Pomp and Circumstance
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail