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Thursday, November 11, 2010

In Remembrance

Today is Veterans' Day, a day that comes every year as a reminder that wars are not fought by our government, but by human beings, a disproportionate number of whom are from a very different background from my own. It's hard not to get caught up in the stark unfairness of it all, that those who make the decisions to declare our countries at war are so rarely the ones who end up suffering the very real human sacrifices.

Both my grandfathers served in combat in World War II, a time in which the politics of war are remembered in much simpler terms than the ongoing wars in the Middle East. Good guys fought, bad guys lost. Today we know that soldiers aren't the only ones losing their lives in combat, and simple justifications for war don't really exist. My father's father, who died not at war but in his sleep, peacefully, when I was five, wrote letters home from war that have been immortalized in a collection by a local author, Jack London. These letters help show the human side to war, at a time when war is constant yet elusive, ever-present but rarely considered by those of us lucky enough to live in our insular country.

My grandfather is one of many whose letters are being preserved by The Letter Project. With Thanksgiving approaching, and in remembrance and gratitude to all those who have served, all those whose lives have been lost on any side of any war, and all those who strive for a peaceful world, please take a moment to give thanks.

Foggia, Italy: November 22, 1945

It is Thanksgiving Day and I am on guard duty. I can think of more pleasant ways to spend Thanksgiving, but I am well, warm and have just finished eating a wonderful dinner, so I guess I can't complain too much. For dinner we had turkey and all the trimmings, prepared and served excellently. Many people here were not so fortunate. As I sit here, in a little shack in the army parking lot I am guarding, I can see four old women huddled up against a bombed-out building, not a hundred feet away. They are having their Thanksgiving dinner too, only for them there is no turkey or peas or potatoes or cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie or ice cream. No, they are eating bread, nothing else, just plain old hard brown bread. I am sure the same thing is taking place throughout many countries in Europe. Why must these people go hungry? Why must they suffer for something they aren't responsible for? The ones who got fat under fascist rule are managing to stay fat under Allied rule, at least most of them. I cannot understand why God allows it to be this way.

-Staff Sergeant Ernest Howard, my Dadoo