Friday, November 11, 2011
November 11, 2011: Veteran Posts
I’ve written about war a good bit in this space, and often to be sure in overtly critical ways. But I’ve also tried on many occasions to engage with some of the more genuinely heroic, and at least more sympathetic, sides to what war is and means for those who serve in it. And to commemorate this Veteran’s Day, here are five such posts:
1) Last Year’s Veteran’s Day Post: For my first Veteran’s Day post, I considered one of the most under-rated and powerful American war films, and one of the very best engagements with the post-war experiences of vets: The Best Years of Their Lives (1946).
2) The Shaw Memorial: The Shaw Memorial, like the Civil War experiences of the 54th Massachusetts, the film Glory (1989), and every other element of that amazing story, certainly has a good deal to do with issues of race and community and history in America. But at the end of the day, both Shaw and the 54th’s troops are also among the most inspiring American soldiers in our long national story.
3) Chamberlain’s Bluff: Joshua Chamberlain would be the first to argue that he wasn’t among the most inspiring soldiers, that in fact his Civil War leadership was defined as much by fear and uncertainty as heroism. Maybe, but Chamberlain’s human qualities and experiences only amplify the amazing heroism of his crucial Gettsyburg moment, about which I wrote in this post.
4) Eisenhower’s Presidency: Dwight Eisenhower was without question an important and impressive military leader—but as I argue in this post, he was also a pretty impressive president and political leader as well, especially in contrast to what us liberals might instinctively believe or argue. Compared especially to the other best-known generals toward presidents—Andrew Jackson and Ulysses Grant—Eisenhower comes out looking pretty good.
5) Albion Tourgée: Like Eisenhower but even more fully, Tourgée is known much more for his post-war activities and identity than for his military service. But it’s fair to say both that Tourgée would never have moved to the South after the Civil War if it weren’t for his military experiences there and that his profoundly realistic and cynical yet passionate and activist mentality might well have stemmed directly from his time at war.
To all who have served, and all with family members or loved ones who did or are serving, Happy Veteran’s Day! More this weekend,
PS. Any inspirational veterans, moments, or texts you’d add to this conversation?