By Anonymous (not verified) on November 11, 2012

My earliest memories of Veterans Day are filled with images of my dad telling me that "on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the year before I was born, World War I ended."

When my father spoke those words -- as he did every Armistice Day -- I had the sense that wars ended with precise finality. Little did I know then that wars are not so easily dismissed.

I first became a soldier in a war zone on Veterans Day in 1970. My father, a World War II vet like all the other dads in our working-class Philadelphia neighborhood, was helpless to save me, and I think he went to his death regretting that he could not rescue me from that ugly experience.

My military transport plane landed at Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base outside Saigon on Nov. 11, 1970. Uncle Sam sent me back home on Nov. 11, 1971, exactly 365 days later.

As you can imagine, Nov. 11 is etched in my mind and will always be so. It's personal, of course, but in a way it's universal, too.

I say that because too many of our fathers and mothers and wives and husbands still have to visit the graves of loved ones on Nov. 11.

I say that because nearly all of our political leaders rattle sabers in an attempt to look strong and mighty, while at the same time paying lip service to the sacrifices made by the less than 1 percent of the population who have been fighting America's wars.

And I say that because what my father and I both learned is that war is brutal and ugly and unremitting, even after you're discharged.

I wish my father and I had talked about that. I wish we as a nation would talk more about that, too. Because one thing fellow combatants know is that war is not the answer.

Sure, I'll pay tribute to my dad and all my fellow veterans on Nov. 11. But I'll also close the curtains, lest any of my neighbors think it strange that a 65-year-old man is sitting up most of the night, alone in his living room, weeping.

Doug Bradley is a Vietnam veteran based in Madison, Wis. His book of Vietnam-related short stories, "DEROS Vietnam: Dispatches from the Air-Conditioned Jungle," has been recently published. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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