Category Archives: Military/Veterans

He Never Saw the Armistice

The strapping young man pictured above is my grandfather-in-law. He died fighting on the Western Front in World War I. Several years ago, I did a research project about him, and what I learned was astounding. What follows is an abbreviated account, but it’ll take a while.

William was an Ohioan, born in Paulding, grew up in Chillicothe, graduated from Wooster College, taught for a couple of years and then became a junior executive in the educational division of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. He was considered a rising star in its ranks.

While still in his teens, he joined the Ohio National Guard, and rose to the rank of lieutenant. He served in the brief US-Mexican border war in late 1916-early 1917. In April 1917, the US entered World War I on the side of the Allies, but its armed forces were small in number and inexperienced. The government sought to quickly build some semblance of an army by conscripting state National Guard units. William, then 27, answered the call in July; the Ohio Guard became the 166th Infantry within the 42nd Division, dubbed the Rainbow Division because it consisted of Guardsmen from several states. In August William began training, and in October he shipped out to France, never to return.

In May of that year, he had married Florence, an elementary school teacher. Sometime that summer, she became pregnant with the son who would become my father-in-law. William never met his son.

The voyage to Europe, in a hastily refitted banana boat, took 11 days. It was dangerous and unpleasant. The men were kept below decks except for brief exercise breaks every day. “The men were packed as tight as sardines,” wrote R.L. Cheseldine, the official historian of the 166th in World War I. “Cleanliness was striven for, but not attained to any great degree after the first day.” There was constant fear of attack by German U-boats.

A few days after landing in northern France, the 166th embarked on a three-day rail trip to eastern France. They traveled in the notorious 40-and-8s, unheated wooden boxcars that were old, rickety and uncomfortable. They were the object of many a complaint at the time; but after all the hardships of trench warfare on the Western Front, the soldiers looked back in fondness on their time in the 40-and-8s.

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Bask In The Glory

Rarely do you see something so perfect that you wonder if it can possibly be real.

Submitted for your consideration: The above Craigslist ad from a rebel wannabe right here in Vermont. If you needed any evidence that we’ve got people like that just like every other state, here it is.

Now, I can’t swear to the authenticity of this thing. You’ll pardon me if I’m not anxious to get in touch with the self-described vendor. But let us take just a moment to marvel at this piece of artfully rancid Americana.

Confederate flag? Of course.

Random articles of militaria hanging on the wall? Yuh-huh.

Symbol of anti-American rebellion proudly displayed by someone selling U.S. military — pardon me, “millatery” — supplies? Oh the irony.

Only the vaguest acquaintance with the fineries of one’s native language? F’sho.

Prepper wannabe? Mmm-hmm.

Couldn’t resist sampling the goods? That freeze-dried SOS was calling to him.

Hoping to land a pickup truck worth $720? Definitely transport-challenged.

But if you’re in the market for 118 yummy-in-the-tummy military-grade meals that can be served hot or — eeeewwwww — cold, don’t let me stop you. I’d hate for you to be left Un prepaired.

A slanted report from a usually reliable source

Not sure what happened in the editorial process at VTDigger, but on Wednesday morning it published a terribly one-sided piece on the F-35 issue.

Those opposed to F-35s at Burlington Airport probably liked the article, and will probably attack me for the following critique. But really, no matter what your political persuasion, this is a clear and obvious example of slanted journalism at its worst.

By comparison, Mark Davis of Seven Days wrote a story that was fair and respectful to both sides and provided readers a clear understanding of the status of the issue.

The two stories provided very different versions of a court hearing in a legal challenge to the F-35 siting decision. At the end of the hearing, the judge said he would consider some extremely limited factors in the case, which was bad news for the plaintiffs.

The Digger article was written by Adam Federman. His name does not appear on the Digger staff listing; nor was he identified at the end of the piece, which is customary for a non-staff contributor.

Federman’s piece is a dutiful chronicle of one side of the issue — the anti-F35 side. The story is framed around their objections, and (unfairly to readers who want to stay informed) exaggerates the antis’ chances of success.

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Only in #VT: Military Vets for Namaste

You probably wouldn’t ever see this story in, say, Texas or Mississippi.

A large donation from Manchester Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6471 has enabled the Vermont Veterans’ Home to expand its Namaste program.

This included buying furnishings for the Namaste room, which has a scenic view of the landscape and pond in back of the home.

The Namaste program is aimed at “giving non-pharmacological intervention to anxiety, dementia behaviors,” according to Vets’ Home CEO Melissa Jackson. She reports “incredible success” with the program.

Still, for most VFW chapters, I suspect the name itself would be a deal-breaker. Somebody’d think it was Muslim; others would blanch at the idea of inculcating ideas from Eastern religion into our troubled vets. Hey, whaddya doin’ in that Nam-assty room — training American double agents?

Instead, when presented with the idea, the Manchester Post responded with a $40,000 donation.

Hats off to VFW Post 6471 for their generosity. Maybe in the future I’ll be a little less quick to judge, or dismiss, “old-fashioned” community groups like theirs.