Somehow, it turned out that most of the friends I’ve made as an adult (over age 18) are either military, worked around military people, come from military families, or have some other connection to the armed forces of the US, Australia, or Canada, or Great Britain. I didn’t set out to do that, it just happened. (Granted, the aviation community leans that direction, especially rotorcraft, but still…)
Today in the US is Armed Forces Day. The third Saturday in May is set aside to honor the men and women who currently serve in the Armed Forces of the US (including the Reserves and National Guard). Originally there were separate days for the four (then five) branches of the military, but the SecDef lumped them together in 1949. Note that this did not and does not replace things like the Marine Corps Birthday and commemorations of the founding of the other branches. May is also V-E Day, and Memorial Day.
I’ve mentioned before that I tried three times to get into the military, and failed three times. That’s when I got the hint that Someone had other plans for my future. (I’m slow to get hints.) I grew up reading military history and listening to stories from various relatives’ military service. Then I went to college and gravitated toward the men (no women while I was there) around my college who had served. And then I joined the [then Confederate] Commemorative Air Force and it was 99% military.
I figured out pretty quickly that just serving in the military doesn’t make anyone a saint. It can improve some people, or not. However, taking the oath and serving the country is a serious job, and one that deserves respect.
My hat is off to the men and women currently serving. Thank you. Long may the US be a place worth defending.
I went into a public-‘ouse to get a pint o’ beer,
The publican ‘e up an’ sez, “We serve no red-coats here.”
The girls be’ind the bar they laughed an’ giggled fit to die,
I outs into the street again an’ to myself sez I:
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
I went into a theatre as sober as could be,
They gave a drunk civilian room, but ‘adn’t none for me;
They sent me to the gallery or round the music-‘alls,
But when it comes to fightin’, Lord! they’ll shove me in the stalls!
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
We aren’t no thin red ‘eroes, nor we aren’t no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An’ if sometimes our conduck isn’t all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don’t grow into plaster saints;
While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.
You talk o’ better food for us, an’ schools, an’ fires, an’ all:
We’ll wait for extry rations if you treat us rational.
Don’t mess about the cook-room slops, but prove it to our face
The Widow’s Uniform is not the soldier-man’s disgrace.
For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
– R. Kipling, 1890
Agree most wholeheartedly with “Long may the US be a place worth defending” and many thanks to those who are serving today.
There is a lot of wisdom in Kipling if we just take a moment to read and reflect.
Thanks for remembering…
Saw the CAF back in the eighties. Got to walk through a B17. Glimpses of history are so much better than books alone. A few years later I saw the Air Force museum.
“For there isn’t a job on the top o’ the earth the beggar don’t know, nor do —
You can leave ‘im at night on a bald man’s ‘ead, to paddle ‘is own canoe —
‘E’s a sort of a bloomin’ cosmopolouse — soldier an’ sailor too.
“To take your chance in the thick of a rush, with firing all about,
Is nothing so bad when you’ve cover to ‘and, an’ leave an’ likin’ to shout;
But to stand an’ be still to the Birken’ead drill is a damn tough bullet to chew,
An’ they done it, the Jollies — ‘Er Majesty’s Jollies — soldier an’ sailor too!
Their work was done when it ‘adn’t begun; they was younger nor me an’ you;
Their choice it was plain between drownin’ in ‘eaps an’ bein’ mopped by the screw,
So they stood an’ was still to the Birken’ead drill, soldier an’ sailor too!”
— from “Soldier an’ Sailor Too”, also by Kipling.
That man got it.
Yes, he did. He is terribly, terribly unappreciated these days. (Although . . . I was once told that some of our soldiers headed to Southwest Asia and the ‘Stans read his poems to get a better sense of what they’d be seeing and what the cultures there were like. I have no idea if that was true or not.)
I firmly believe this would be a much better world if more people had read and understood Kipling’s poetry, and three works in particular: “The Ballad of East and West,” “The Gods of the Copybook Headings,” and one of my personal favorites ever since I discovered it: “In the Neolithic Age.”
“Here’s my wisdom for your use, as I learned it when the moose
And the reindeer roamed where Paris roars to-night: —
There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right.“