“If you get to read this, I will have died in defense of my country and all that it stands for—the most honorable and distinguished death a man can die. It was not because I was willing to die for my country, however—I wanted to live for it—just as any other person wants to do. It is foolish and foolhardy to want to die for one’s country, but to live for it is something else.
To live for one’s country is, to my mind, to live a life of service; to—in a small way—help a fellow man occasionally along the way, and generally to be useful and to serve. It also means to me to rise up in all our wrath and with overwhelming power to crush any oppressor of human rights. . . .
Try to live a life of service—to help someone where you are or whatever you may be—take it from me; you can get happiness out of that, more than anything in life.”
Captain Henry T. Waskow, U.S. Army, WWII
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You’ve heard of Gomer Pyle, but have you heard of Ernie?
Ernie Pyle was a war correspondent during WWII. The soldiers loved him because they could see how much he cared for and about them, how much he wanted their truths told. And he worked beside them and put himself at the same risks they were taking. Killed by sniper fire, Pyle left behind a collection of war stories from 1938-1944. Find more info at The Library of America, to include his account of how Captain Waskow, largely the source for the 1945 movie, G.I. Joe, was brought down the mountain in Italy.
Journalism these days seems much different than it was during WWII. Sensationalism has taken the place of dirty boot reporting. Anchors must look good and be charming. Certain segments want to shut down news stations that are on the “other side” (never mind we should all be on the same side). And indeed, our media shows much more divisiveness than cohesion.
Many soldiers these days are afraid to be interviewed because so many of their words have been skewed. Are there still reporters out there like Ernie Pyle who reported what he saw and heard without slanting everything toward his personal viewpoint or toward whoever is paying for his viewpoint? I have my doubts.
I’m not naïve about WWII days. I realize there were then, too, skewed reports and such. It’s impossible to have any written record that is not skewed in some manner. Facts always bend to personal bias.
Still, it seems since the Sixties, our military has been largely a political tool for the media and politicians (which go hand-in-hand). They know they are. So much for the days of Hemingway’s from-the-hip saying what he saw and Vonnegut’s true life experience being the voice of war. Now it’s pretty-boy look-at-me broadcasters followed by cameras who likely-as-not go for ratings rather than full truths. Why else, when we are told about children in war zones killed by “our” forces do we not also hear why they were killed, about how they had bombs strapped to them by their “own” people and handed by “civilians” to our soldiers? Where is the reality of this in our spruced up pretty journalism?
”Don’t offend the enemy!” We’ve all heard it, although they don’t “say” enemy. Have to be Politically Correct, right? How about, “Don’t side against our troops and turn part of the country against them,” as well? How about telling more of the truth, the larger truth?
How about serving your country and not expecting it to serve you?
We’ve lost that somewhere. Well, some of us have. The rest are out there doing it, supporting our right to slant opinions and to tell them they shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. Or we’re supporting them. Fully.
Memorial Day is not a holiday. It’s a remembrance day. How about we remember how we got where we are, and better yet, where we once were? How so many brave and valiant soldiers fought for our right to live in freedom, to not be controlled but to keep our government in check so it can keep us free and no more than that. Let’s remember all who are still fighting for that. Let’s honor them by helping their cause, to insist we keep that freedom.
”Support our troops” is a slogan seen everywhere these days. It’s nice and all, but what are we doing to support them? The more we turn our backs on what they fight for and give their lives for, the more we betray their sacrifice.
Honor them. Honor the freedom the allow us to have. Vow to help uphold it.
Thank you to all those who live in support of our country, and in support of freedom and democracy around the world.
source: Ernie Pyle, from the Indiana University School of Journalism
click on “Wartime Columns” to read some of his work