Veterans Day: Is anybody listening?

Published 12:35 am Sunday, November 3, 2013

Veterans Day brings to mind one of the favorite anecdotes of my late father, Lewis Tyree.

Dad was inducted into the U.S. Army at the tail end of World War II. During basic training, the drill instructor demonstrated how to disarm a knife-wielding assailant. One by one he handed the recruits a knife and invited them to attack him

Without exception the soldiers held the knife high overhead like a dagger and lumbered toward the instructor, who easily (sadistically?) made them drop the knife and used a judo flip to land them on their backsides.

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When Dad’s turn came, he employed rural Tennessee common sense. He crouched and advanced on the instructor, with the knife blade tucked against his forearm so he could slash with impunity.

With a “deer in the headlights” facial expression, the instructor tried to save face by sputtering, “You dumb old hillbilly! Sit back down! Somebody who knows how to hold a knife come up here and attack me!”

So the raw recruit was revealing things that made someone uncomfortable. Alas, even those who put in multiple tours of duty can still be unwelcome.

While preparing this column, I asked veteran Terry Lowe of Marshall County, Tenn., (who spent 18 months in a tank in Vietnam and whose father was with Dwight Eisenhower’s Army all the way from Normandy Beach to Berlin) what he would like to tell my readership for Veterans Day.

Although he threw in some colorful details about backroom deals and sniper attacks, the short answer was “Don’t ever forget.”

A simple request, but one we often find hard to carry out.

To a large extent, we wish veterans would stay “out of sight, out of mind” and not inconvenience us with reminders of their sacrifice or lessons learned from the school of hard knocks.

Veterans Day makes our Nov. 11 mail a day late. It messes up our school curriculum by making us mention 20th Century wars while trying to discuss the Industrial Revolution.

Our budget number-crunchers must work extra hard to deal with the benefits the veterans were promised.

When we want to watch the heroes on “The Jerry Springer Show” or “Real Housewives,” the veterans want to prattle on about some buddy who threw himself on a live grenade or some such.

When we see veterans living on the street, it dampens our downtown dinner parties and makes us temporarily feel guilty about not exercising our hard-won right to vote.

When our military-industrial complex licks its chops at the prospects of dropping some bombs and having “boots on the ground,” it’s counterproductive for those who’ve known the horrors of war to voice an impertinent word of caution.

Our leaders are delayed in their treks to the golf course when they have to deal with making sure today’s military personnel have a clear mission and sufficient gear, or when they have to justify the geopolitical wheeling and dealing that leaves service people fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

Somehow or another we need to overcome these frustrations, honor the vets 365 days a year and value their input.

Even a dumb old hillbilly would know that the nation can’t afford to make its valuable human resources sit down and shut up forever.


Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”