Category Archives: combat

“Not all who have served are “veterans” in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs” says report.

Another example of the failure of the VA’s regulations is the absence of any generally applicable provision for considering whether the veteran served in hardship conditions, including whether the veteran served in combat. . . .”

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[RESEARCHER UPDATE 6 June 2019]  My original note below, reports on the 2016 report from Swords to Plowshares and the Veterans Legal Clinic at Harvard. And it speaks of the notable loyalty and compassion that I’d seen among Marines, including for those who’ve died at their own hands and the women who’ve served as well. Given the nature of service that our Nation requires and has always required of our Marines, I reference the report’s disturbing finding that the VA denies services to Marines far more than it does Airmen. My personal observations in the note were largely based on what I’d observed over time in Leatherneck Lifestyle (The Underground), a Facebook group whose members are Marines or, as in my case, a civilian who’s been really grateful for them ever since some really scary days in West Africa when I was a little kid. This photo of Facebook data from 16 May 2018 confirms my membership in the closed group. But the full set of records received from Facebook a year later, on 11 May 2019, confirms the reason that I can’t learn from those Marines now: soon after 276 of them and their supporters found another one of my posts useful, I was yanked from their group. And all evidence of my ever being a member vanished. This is the same Facebook data set that falsely reports that I stopped following aggressive, leftist, anti-American pages from groups that i never knew existed and if I had, almost certainly would never have visited them – UNLESS I could use the angry left’s pages to learn more about the extreme left alliance that wants an innocent, patriotic American woman in Tucson dead. 
https://charlesbloeser.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/five-reasons-it-makes-sense-to-believe-that-an-extreme-left-alliance-wants-an-innocent-american-dead/

#WeArePSYOP
#psychologicaloperations

 

 

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ORIGINAL RESEARCHER NOTE: By far more than anyone else, United States Marines and their supporters have reacted to and commented on this solemn, snow-shrouded image that I posted on Facebook mere hours ago. It’s an anecdotal truth for this author that those in and around the USMC are quick, respectful, and openly compassionate when it comes to honoring the noble dead. Collectively, the kind of fight that our Marines take to America’s enemies is a lot different than that we ask of our airmen. So, why: The VA has effectively decided that Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

 

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Here’s an excerpt from the March 2016 report as accessed online 21 December 2018:

Complete report available at:

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Not all who have served are “veterans” in the eyes of the Department of Veterans Affairs. If the veteran has less than a General discharge, the VA creates obstacles to getting health care, benefits, homeless resources and other services. Most of these veterans are simply turned away. Congress never meant for eligibility to be so exclusive, it intended that only veterans who served dishonorably be denied access. The VA’s own discretionary policies unnecessarily deny hundreds of thousands veterans benefits, who are often those most in need of the VA’s support. These former service members are more likely to have mental health disabilities and twice as likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to be homeless and to be involved with the criminal justice system.

KEY FINDINGS FROM THE REPORT

  • Marines are nearly ten times more likely to be excluded from VA services than their counterparts in the Air Force
  • Current era service members are excluded at higher rates than other eras– more than twice the rate for Vietnam Era veterans and nearly four times the rate for World War II Era veterans
  • Mental health and combat have little effect on eligibility
  • 3 out of 4 veterans with bad-paper discharges who served in combat and who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are denied eligibility by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals

.  .  .

(Excerpted from p. 12 and following)

VA Regulations Result in Unequal Exclusion Rates Between Branches

The historically unprecedented exclusion rate today is due almost enti rely to the VA’s discretionary choice to presume ineligibility for veterans who received administrative Other Than Honorable discharges.

That choice deprives tens of thousands of veterans of needed care, despite the fact that their service would not be considered “Dishonorable”—and was not deemed Dishonorable by the military. What is more, significant disparities exist among the administrative separati on practices of the various service branches. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps each has its own separation regulations and policies. Moreover, within each branch, different units and commands may implement those regulations and policies in a different manner. Thus, service members who engage in similar misconduct may receive disparate treatment: one may be retained, another may be discharged under General conditions, another discharged under Other Than Honorable conditions.

This is due to different leadership styles, not differences in degrees of “dishonor.” A report of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on discharge characterization documented the range of discharge practices and ascribed disparities to differences in leadership and management styles rather than a measurable difference in “honor” or “character.” The GAO compared Marines and Airmen with the same misconduct, service length, and performance history, and found that the Air Force was thirteen times more likely to give a discharge Under Honorable conditions than the Marine Corps.

Because the VA presumptively excludes veterans with non-punitive Other Than Honorable discharges, this discrepancy results in significant differences in VA eligibility. For service members with equivalent conduct histories, Airmen are 13 times more likely than Marines to be deemed presumptively eligible—and recognized as a “veteran”—by the VA.

This results in significant differences in aggregate. Whereas 98% of veterans who have served in the Air  Force since 2001 can access the VA when they leave the service, only 88% of Marines from the period are

presumptively recognized as “veterans” by the VA. (See Table K.9). The VA has effectively decided that Marines are more than five times more “Dishonorable” than Airmen.

This disparity provides a potent reminder for why Congress decided to exclude only veterans who received or should have received a Dishonorable discharge by Court-Martial. Although there are wide discrepancies among services in their administrative discharge practices, the service branches are remarkably similar in how they use punitive discharges. Congress specifically noted that the discretion given to commanders for administrative separations can result in unfair outcomes, and gave veterans the benefit of the doubt by only excluding those who received or deserved a Dishonorable discharge by court-martial. Because the VA’s regulations have presumptively excluded all veterans with administrative Other Than Honorable discharges, the VA is failing to act in accordance with Congress’s decision.

Eligibility Decisions Fail To Adequately Consider Mental Health Conditions that May Have Contributed to Discharge.

Overall, the VA’s COD regulations prevent consideration—except in narrow and specifi c circumstances—of facts that Congress intended the VA to take into account: mitigating factors, extenuating circum-

stances, and positive facts. As one example, the VA’s regulations provide little room for consideration of whether any mental health condition explains or mitigates the conduct that led to the veteran’s bad-paper discharge. It is deeply unfair—and contrary to Congress’s intent—to exclude veterans from basic veteran services for behavior that is symptomatic of mental health conditions that may be related to their service.

It is well established that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, operational stress, and other mental health conditions can lead to behavioral changes. In some cases, military commanders incorrectly attribute those behaviors to bad character, rather than as signs of distress and disease. Indeed, a 2010 study of Marines who deployed to Iraq found that those who were diagnosed with PTSD were eleven times more likely to be discharged for misconduct and eight times more likely to be discharged for substance abuse than Marines without a PTSD diagnosis.

Yet, the VA’s regulati ons contain only one narrow provision related to mental health: misconduct leading to discharge may be overlooked if the veteran was “insane” at the time of the misconduct leading

to discharge. The VA’s definition of “insanity” is antiquated—out of step with the practices of modern psychology and psychiatry, which no longer deem people “insane.” . . .

Eligibility Decisions Do Not Consider Whether the Veteran Served In Combat or Other Hardship Conditions

Another example of the failure of the VA’s regulations is the absence of any generally applicable provision for considering whether the veteran served in hardship conditions, including whether the veteran served in combat. . . .

https://www.swords-to-plowshares.org/2016/03/30/underserved/

Among additional expert analyses of what bad paper discharges do to those who’ve served and their families is:

“Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans

Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg (2017)

Paper (pdf)

https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/papers/2017/bad-papers-invisible-and-increasing-costs-war-excluded-veterans

In a forthcoming article, this author points to another problem facing those with bad paper discharges:

“Veterans with bad paper discharges can get screwed all the way around. Not only are they often – but not always – excluded from VA services and healthcare, they “may be excluded from access to community resources also; many community programs follow the eligibility requirements set by the VA.”

Research Review: Underserved, How the VA Wrongfully Excludes Veterans With Bad Paper. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) iava.org/blog May 3, 2016

https://iava.org/blogs/research-review-underserved-how-the-va-wrongfully-excludes￾veterans-with-bad-paper/

In recent months, some veterans have been given the right to file class action lawsuits against the VA for being denied services due to discharges they say resulted from conduct that’s symptomatic of trauma experienced while doing their military jobs. Here’s an early article about this type of  class certification.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/veterans_may_sue_over_discharges_they_say_were_result_of_untreated_mental_h

 

From Strifeblog: “What this woman knew all too well was that her husband was still paying [] the lifelong cost of war. [] A man who did what his country asked of him and who now suffered in silence like a lot of other veterans.

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Henry: a wounded soldier forgotten by all in an American jail – by all except his brothers who fell beside him in Vietnam
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[Excerpt from “Henry” follows:]

 

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“On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation . . .”

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

 

After years of interrogating and defending witnesses in the criminal courts, detecting patterns and pattern breaks in people’s oral and written speech and in their behaviors is instinctive.
But it’s also instinct to identify other types of patterns. So, while at the Southern Arizona Veterans Cemetery last month, I took time to consider some of the patterns that are visible among the granite niche plates of the veterans who share a columbarium with my dad:
  • Too many of the niche plates are hard to read from just ten feet away;
  • The types of diversity among the names suggests that the ethnic, historical, and linguistic heritage among the veterans who share the columbarium with dad is broad, a reminder that those who fight America’s wars come from far and near;
  • These niche plates and others adjacent to them reveal a near, if not total, absence of any identifier that would draw distinctions among veterans based on race;
  • That the decedent be personally identified with, or perhaps insured by, religion or spirituality appears to be, at the very least, important to the good folks he or she came from;
  • As would be expected, most of these men and women who’ve died in the last few years served this nation’s military as enlisted personnel, rather than as officers;
  • Among these niche plates and others adjacent to them, there is a near, if not total, absence of any markings by which one might distinguish among combat warriors and other military veterans based on whether that veteran was gay, straight, or otherwise;
  • Many of the service men and women on these and other columbaria would have experienced the existential threats that this Nation faced during World War II, while they were still children; others came of age and perhaps served, when the U.S. and its allies fought the Communist scourge on and around the Korean Peninsula and around and above an island just 90 miles from the continental U.S.; during more than ten years of the Vietnam War and in the decades that followed, most, if not all of these veterans time and again saw those who mattered to them most die in whole or in part, regardless of which political party held power in Washington; and like every other person on the planet, each of them woke every day with a promise from the nuclear age: mutually assured destruction if any of us screws up; and
  • Among those niche plates that contain additional remarks in the space below the veteran’s official lifespan, almost all forego terms like “hero” and “warrior” in favor of terms that speak to the human connection that those left behind feel and will continue to feel for the veteran they’ve lost.

 

 

 

charles-photo-lawlibrary-150-x-200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

Shawnee Warrior Tecumseh: “If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.”

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.

“Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

“When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.”

 

This version of a warrior’s reflections on pursuing a life unencumbered by a fear of death, as well as the following remarks and featured image are pulled from http://nativeheritageproject.com. I’m indebted to a great American and great friend, who posted the foregoing guiding principles on social media.

This beautiful passage is attributed to Tecumseh, although it is disputed and also attributed to some of the Wapasha Chiefs, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Wovoka.

“Tecumseh did indeed die as a hero.  Mortally wounded, as shown in the carving above, Tecumseh gave the orders, “One of my legs is shot off! But leave me one or two guns loaded — I am going to have a last shot. Be quick and go!”

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The following background quote re Shawnee warrior Tecumseh is taken from a 1995 Smithsonian Magazine article by Bil Gibson and accessed at smithsonianmag.com:

“Tecumseh was a warrior at 15; later he became a renowned field commander and a charismatic orator. By the early 1800s he had conceived of a Pan-Indian federation. In this union he hoped old tribal rivalries would be set aside so that the indigenous people of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley could act as one in resisting the advancing whites. From a base on the Tippecanoe River in northern Indiana, he traveled from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico promoting this federation. His ambition was probably an impossible one; the Indian population of this territory was then less than 100,000 and that of the United States nearly seven million. Still, rumors of what he was up to greatly alarmed many frontier whites, including William Henry Harrison, the federal governor of the Indiana Territory. Formerly a Regular Army officer, Harrison negotiated with Tecumseh face-to-face on two occasions and assessed him as “one of those uncommon geniuses who spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things.”

Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-dying-tecumseh-97830806/#dhtS2Vs96sdezZgq.99

FEATURE IMAGE, summary description, and linked-to add’l information courtesy office of the Architect of the Capitol:

DEATH OF TECUMSEH

Death of Tecumseh frieze

“Tecumseh, a brilliant Indian chief, warrior and orator, is shown being fatally shot by Colonel Johnson at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada during the War of 1812. Tecumseh and his followers joined forces with the British to resist the encroachment of settlers on Indian territory. With Tecumseh’s death, however, the momentum and power of the Indian confederacy was broken. (1813)”

https://www.aoc.gov/art/frieze-american-history/death-tecumseh

 

 

 

My husband lost a limb in Afghanistan. Now, as his caregiver, I’m on the front lines.

Today’s opinion column by wounded warrior caregiver and USA Today contributor Ms. Sarah Verardo yanks the cover away from a national tragedy that the Trump Administration is working to fix.

The focus of her essay is those veterans – and their caregivers – who are deemed eligible for VA benefits. It does not extend to the tens of thousands of veterans who’ve been deemed ineligible for VA services due to “bad paper” discharges.

Although by law, Congress denies veterans’ services only to those “discharged under dishonorable conditions,” the VA has interpreted the intent of the law as excluding anyone with Dishonorable discharges as well as all veterans with Bad Conduct or OTH discharges, regardless of whether or not these latter discharges were related to any action understood as ‘dishonorable.’”

Ali R. Tayyeb and Jennifer Greenburg. “Bad Papers”: The Invisible and Increasing Costs of War for Excluded Veterans 6. Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs, Brown University. 20 June 2017 (citations omitted).

The following is excerpted from Ms. Verardo’s opinion piece in USA Today:

“Eight years ago, my husband stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He lost his left leg and much of his left arm, and barely survived. . . .

“As many as 5.5 million caregivers struggle to care for disabled veterans like my husband. These wounded warriors, especially catastrophically disabled, need round-the-clock assistance because they have a hard time completing the tasks associated with daily living — such as going to the bathroom or getting out of bed.

“In our case, my husband needs assistance to complete all his daily tasks, from dressing, to getting cleaned and ready, to planning the day. Every day, I am constantly thinking for two people.

Catastrophically wounded vets also require lots of medical care. In addition to his surgeries [119 of them], my husband has gone through years of speech, visual, physical and occupational therapy.

. . .

“The Department of Veterans Affairs offers caregivers support for coordinating these services as well as a stipend.

“Caregivers could receive $7,800 to $30,000 in any given year. To calculate caregiver stipends, the VA looks at a typical home health aide’s hourly wage in a veteran’s geographic location, as well as the number of hours of care that veteran needs. The VA caps the hours of care at 40 per week.

“That’s almost insulting. I am a caregiver every second of every day. One-fifth of caregivers report caring for their veterans 80 hours a week.

. . .
Fortunately, federal officials are beginning to take action. As part of the recently passed VA MISSION Act, Congress will expand caregiver support to all veterans — not just those injured after 9/11.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2018/12/05/veteran-caregivers-affairs-war-disability-afghanistan-va-column/2154728002/

 

FEATURE IMAGE accompanies this 5 December 2018 featured op-ed in USA Today. Caption: “Mike and Sarah Verardo in Charlotte, North Carolina, in November 2018.”

Veterans’ Treatment Court allows career Army sergeant to include yoga in five-year plan

“PROSE”: “the ordinary language people use in speaking or writing.”  – Merriam Webster

Following is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Nikki Prodromos

SERGEANT FIRST CLASS

“My name is Nikki Prodromos and I found Connected Warriors Yoga because drinking to cope with my three combat tours landed me in Veterans’ Treatment Court after having a few too many and getting behind the wheel. I have 21 enlisted years in the Army, serving active duty from ’95-’99 and joining the Reserves after September 11th. After each combat tour, I came home a little more anxious, a little more depressed, and a lot more withdrawn. At my lowest point, I couldn’t leave my apartment to check my mail and would ‘rally’ two days a month to attend battle assemblies and honor my reserve commitment but, I would pick up a 12 pack on the way home.

“Veterans’ Treatment Court required me to write a five-year plan in which I included attending yoga, for several reasons. First, the plan required a physical exercise element and as a 70% disabled veteran, this was one of my few viable options. Second, I tried yoga a few years ago and loved how I felt after my practice. Third, my Veterans’ Treatment Court mentor handed me a CW yoga flier and I found out it was free…which was about all my budget could afford last year. Finally, I’m two semesters shy of my master’s degree in Performance/Sport Psychology and know that the healing power of yoga has been proven time and time again. Boy, did I need some healing!”

Following description of a yoga class at Ft. Campbell is excerpted from Connected Warriors website: https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

Michael, MSG – U.S. ARMY VETERAN WITH 17 YEARS IN SERVICE

“Three years ago a retired Army Command Sergeant Major invited me to a Connected Warriors yoga class at Fort Campbell. Needless to say, I was apprehensive about going to an unfamiliar activity that I perceived as new age stretching for women. Walking in the room, I was surprised to find such an eclectic group of participants from all different age groups, genders, body types, and fitness levels. Many had some type of knee, shoulder, or back injury – battle wounds from a dedicated life of service. Much to my surprise, the class was an intense workout that challenged my strength, balance, and flexibility. I found myself returning each week to learn new postures and for the challenge of pushing myself to the edge. During that year, I noticed physical changes such as my knee no longer swelling after long runs and ruck marches, increased inner core strength, and an overall improvement in my level of fitness.”

Per Connected Warriors:

“The Connected Warriors mission is to empower Servicemembers, Veterans and their Families worldwide through Trauma-Conscious Yoga.”

“Thanks to our synergistic partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Connected Warriors is at the forefront of clinical studies on yoga’s positive effects. Out of every dollar we raise, 92¢ cents goes into our programs in 9 countries worldwide, 24 states, and Washington D.C.”

 

Two Vietnam veterans talk about the Connected Warriors program in 2011 South Florida article re former sex crimes and homicide prosecutor who left to teach yoga full time:

“I always thought that yoga had something to do with meditation, but I didn’t know it was so strenuous,” said Vietnam veteran Curtis Hodge Jr., 66, a Lauderhill retiree. He said a weekly class with Frankel has helped him sleep through the night for the first time in 40 years.

“This is not a sissy thing, you know,” Hodge said.

Fellow Vietnam veteran Tom Turnberger, 63, a former Marine, praised Frankel’s non-critical manner. “He goes out of his way to make everyone feel welcome,” said Turnberger, of Plantation. “He said he appreciates what we’ve done as veterans, and that is not something those of us who served in Vietnam heard a lot.

“I don’t know how this works, but it gives me a sense of calm,” he added. “I’ve been searching for this.”

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/health/fl-xpm-2011-08-03-fl-yoga-for-vets-20110730-story.html

 

Feature image accessed 4 December 2018 at https://connectedwarriors.org/warrior-testimonials/

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200

Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam

“Honor the noble dead.”

The battle of Verdun was the longest, if not the bloodiest, single battle in World War I. Launched by the German Fifth Army on 21 February 1916, it did not come to an end until the final French counterattack was ended on 19 December 1916. For most of 1916, German and French soldiers fought tooth and nail for a few square miles of terrain around the French fortress city of Verdun, in what was the quintessential “battle of attrition” of World War I. Most units of the French army and many of the German army fought in what was described by both sides as the “hell of Verdun.” Between the battle’s start and the end of August (when the Germans ceased offensive operations), some 281,000 Germans and some 315,000 Frenchmen were killed or wounded. . . .” – Dr. Robert Foley, Dean of Academic Studies/Head of Department at the Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC), the Defence Academy of the UK. Dr. Foley is author of “Verdun: The Killing Field.” 66(9) History Today (September 2016). https://www.historytoday.com/robert-foley/verdun-killing-field

Carl Hugh Bloeser 1939 2014 USA USAF dad

 

A word about the American veteran who penned the following 8-paragraph essay:

Like the combat warrior whose name has been entrusted to me, dad was an Army Veteran. But he also served as a medic in the USAF. And some years before brain cancer came calling, several autumns before my mom accepted the thanks of a grateful nation for dad’s faithful and dedicated service, dad wrote these 8 paragraphs about a return visit he made to soldiers who died in combat in what was to have been the last war. Ever.

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month”[i]

by Carl H. Bloeser, M.P.H, M.A.P.A., U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force veteran, 1939-2014

In the history of warfare no greater insanity is recorded than the Battle of Verdun.[ii] Never have so many died or been maimed for such an insignificant piece of land.[iii]

It was on the 11th day of the 11th month sixty nine years after the Armistace that I found myself once again at Verdun. I had traveled there the previous night under a full moon that did its best to illuminate plowed fields and meadows that were covered with a low and concealing fog. The only movement I could see off the road was a tractor slowly plowing in the distance with its lights disappearing and then re-appearing as it moved along the edges of crafted rows. A thousand ghosts had to enjoy the serenity and the tranquility of that night.

Verdun was ahead and it was late. As in earlier years I would look for a room in a loft and one above the [b]ar and a place to eat. The small hotel I chose brought life to the night in a town where death had consumed so many. The chill so common to that part of France in November was broken by the laughter and the talking of a family around a long and ancient table close to where I had chosen to finish my day with a glass of wine and a sandwich.

Early on the eleventh day of the eleventh month I went out to walk the streets. The very best of Europe I have often found in the quiet of early morning. It was cold. I had to wonder how many armies slept and drank and did what armies do in the streets and the shops and the bars and the homes all in sight of the towers of Verdun’s cathedral. The only sounds I heard were the voices of Arabs talking and laughing with each other. I wondered if they were from Algeria or Morocco or from some other place far from home. In that, we both had something in common. The smell of the morning was from the bakery making [croissants.] The day was just beginning . . . the hour of eleven on the eleventh month of the eleventh day sixty nine years later was still off in the distance.

It was time to return to the warmth of the hotel and a hot cup of coffee. As I passed through the hotel door the proprietor didn’t look in my direction. After all, over many years numbers of people must have come and gone through that door at all times, days and seasons. One more wouldn’t warrant his attention. Breakfast appeared to be his morning obsession. As he walked from behind the hotel bar he seemed determined to maneuver the half-smoked and dangling cigarette away from the coffee pot he carried. Morning bread was already on the table along with jams and jellies of various types and colors in petite bowls of clear crystal. Creamy butters with curled ridges adorned the small plates next to each bowl. At each end of the table two white bowls filled with boiled eggs stood in command over his temporary work of art. Silver, plates, cups and cloth napkins were gathered on a small table nearby. Nothing was packaged. What an insult that would have been to this man. Everything was in its proper place. It was time for the morning breakfast concert to begin. Only then did he look up, say good morning and slowly limp from the room.

After breakfast I toted my bag to where the car was parked, opened the door, tossed the bag in the back seat and reached for an open map. I decided that the day would center around visits to towns and villages of the living, monuments to those who had died, and to those places where the dead are buried. I knew from visits long before [that] I wouldn’t have to drive far in any direction.

As I approached my first mark on the map I found an area in which to park. Walking toward the first place to visit I remember looking up at a nearby building. Of many frosted windows one caught my eye. Lace adorned its glass. A small smiling face pressed her nose against the window and smiled to this stranger walking in the cold. I smiled back. Her smile warmed the moment.

The building of the living wasn’t that far from the graves. Close-by a painted sign read “Cimetieaes Militaires Francais.” Buried there were those who died in the “War to end all Wars.” They would never know of that failure nor did they know that their sons and daughters would join them soon in Flanders [F]ields. A late fall leaf had landed on a boundary wire. The frigid wind poked at it to join the dead. A gentle mist fell from the wire as though shedding tears for those buried here. A small bird nearby searched for food – but even it did so in silence. This was indeed a place of the dead. The eleventh hour had come and gone. . . .

Carl H. Bloeser. “The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month.” Unpublished work. Copyright 2001. Repost 11 November 2018 by Charles LK Bloeser at https://combatresearchandprose.com.

#Verdun #BattleofVerdun #glioblastoma #veteranswrite #WorldWarI #wartoendallwars #carlbloeser #combatstress #combattrauma #PTS #shellshock #KIA #WesternFront

ENDNOTES

[i] Dad died from brain cancer before he could put the finishing touches on this essay. As such, the version of dad’s essay that first appeared on LinkedIn/Pulse contains a parenthetical note that the essay is a “work in progress.” A ninth paragraph that is not necessary to this essay and which doesn’t follow the textual pattern of the 8 paragraphs presented here – has been excluded. The 8 paragraphs presented here are as dad wrote them – except for minor typographic adjustments for clarity and the decision to use common spelling of “croissant.” Because this essay was created after Jan. 1, 1978, copyright protection is asserted on behalf of Carl H. Bloeser from date of creation, i.e., 2001. Endnotes are not part of the original manuscript but have been added to provide further context. Endnotes by Charles Bloeser https://charlesbloeser.com

[ii] Dr. Robert Foley is Dean of Academic Studies/Head of Department at the Defence Studies Department, Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) at the Defence Academy of the UK. Inter alia, Dr. Foley was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize for his work, German Strategy and The Path to Verdun (Cambridge, 2004).

In the preview to a 2012 article about the Battle of Verdun, Dean Foley provides this summary: “The battle of Verdun was the longest, if not the bloodiest, single battle in World War I. Launched by the German Fifth Army on 21 February 1916, it did not come to an end until the final French counterattack was ended on 19 December 1916. For most of 1916, German and French soldiers fought tooth and nail for a few square miles of terrain around the French fortress city of Verdun, in what was the quintessential “battle of attrition” of World War I. Most units of the French army and many of the German army fought in what was described by both sides as the “hell of Verdun.” Between the battle’s start and the end of August (when the Germans ceased offensive operations), some 281,000 Germans and some 315,000 Frenchmen were killed or wounded. The battle ended in obvious defeat for the German army, which led to the replacement of the German chief of the general staff, General Erich Falkenhayn. . . .” Military History: Battle of Verdun | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0021 (published online February 2012); preview accessed Jan. 1, 2018 at: http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0021# (endnote not original with author of essay)

[iii]Dr. Foley explains that “. . . the British historian A. J. P. Taylor once described the battle of Verdun as “the most senseless episode in a war not distinguished for sense anywhere.Id. (endnote not original with author of essay)

 

Feature Image of Verdun Ossuary accessed 11 November 2018 at http://roadstothegreatwar-ww1.blogspot.com/2013/12/18-december-1916-battle-of-verdun-ends.html (“Right at the heart of the Verdun battlefield is the massive Ossuary. This was inaugurated in 1932, and inside the base of the building are collected the bones recovered from this battlefield – an estimated 130,000 skeletons. Walking around the building one can peer through the small windows to see these grisly reminders of the bloodshed here. Through some of the windows can be seen neatly piled long-bones; through others jumbles and scraps of bones as well as skulls.” http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk/others/verdun/)

 

A Dare . . .

The featured image from just one alcove of the Douaumont Ossuary at Verdun offers up a sobering challenge. It dares us to see how many fellow human beings, French and German, we can count among the bones. But no matter how many brothers and sons and uncles and fathers and husbands and lovers we can count, the image still isn’t satisfied. Now it demands that we take that number and calculate for each of the fallen our best estimate of how many fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and lovers and lost-loves have, in one generation after another spanning the last 100 years, been changed because their loved one didn’t come home. Or . . . if he did, because the man who came home was not the man who went to war. 

 

Charles.photo.lawlibrary. 150 x 200Charles Bloeser is a lawyer and the researcher behind the creation of combatresearchandprose.com, a new open-source applied research initiative examining combat and those marked by it. His most recent publication, in August 2018, reports how a cancer-stricken, combat-haunted Vietnam veteran fell between the cracks in a modern jail. It’s an account that, from that warrior’s deathbed, he asked author to share with those best able to keep the same thing from happening to others. STRIFE, at the Department of War Studies, Kings College London, gave him a way to do that.  

http://www.strifeblog.org/2018/08/02/henry-a-wounded-soldier-forgotten-by-all-in-an-american-jail-by-all-except-his-brothers-who-fell-beside-him-in-vietnam