FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

My Grandfather’s Medal

 

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).

March 25, 2019
Dave Lindorff
The TSA’s Role as Journalist Harasser and Media ‘Watchdog’
Tanya Golash-Boza – Michael Golash
Epifanio Camacho: a Militant Farmworker Brushed Out of History
Robert Fisk
Don’t Believe the Hype: Here’s Why ISIS Hasn’t Been Defeated
Jack Rasmus
The Capitulation of Jerome Powell and the Fed
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s Moves to the Right
John Feffer
After Trump
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9/11
Dean Baker
The Importance of Kicking Up: Changing Market Structures So the Rich Don’t Get All the Money
Lawrence Wittner
What Democratic Socialism Is and Is Not
Thomas Knapp
Suppressing Discussion Doesn’t Solve the Problem. It is the Problem.
Stephen Cooper
“I’m a Nine-Star General Now”: an Interview with Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson
Andrew Moss
Immigration and the Democratic Hopefuls
Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail