Friday, February 10, 2017

Michelle Hurst Pell writes

Memorial Day—Jimmy Seigfried 

I might be crazy. 
I sat in my car the other day outside of school 
And tried to think of just one thing 
That inspired me. 
Just one.
Jimmy Seigfried’s dead. 
Dead in Vietnam fifty years ago. 
Oh, his body came home 
And lived and breathed in Liberty 
For another forty years 
Floating down a river of Jack Daniels 
Through a constant haze of weed 
His mother wouldn’t touch him when he slept. 
The first time she tried, he woke with his hands around her throat.
But now Jimmy Seigfried is really dead. 
He didn’t get a Purple Heart, but the war killed him, nonetheless. 
And so is Grandpa who came home from Belleau Woods 
A proud Marine 
With a wooden leg. 
Will has a titanium face and demon dreams
Souvenirs from Fallujah 
He’s come home to wage war with the VA 
And all those young men who chanted 
“Hell no, we won’t go” 
And got trust-fund college boy exemptions 
While they protested the war 
And preached peace and love (and free sex, of course) 
Retire on their fat-ass CEO millions. 
Ah, so much for idealism. 
While we’re happy as hell to go to Walmart in our pajamas 
And hear what the superstars are doing 
And slip on our headphones 
And tweet our 1,423 closest friends 
And smoke our legalized weed 
(Thank god we don’t have to smoke it out of gun barrels, anymore) 
And argue the glories of the SECOND AMENDMENT 
Let freedom ring 
And Jimmy Seigfried is still dead.
 Waiting for Henry Kissenger -- Charlie Shobe


  1. Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the US for remembering those who died serving in the military, observed on the last Monday of May. People people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. (Another American holiday, Veterans Day, celebrated on 11 November, the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, honors the service of all US military veterans, not just those who died. Popularly, Memorial Day marks the start of the unofficial summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.) In addition, annual Decoration Days for particular cemeteries are held on a Sunday in late spring or early summer in some rural areas of the American South, especially in the mountain areas. It often takes on the character of an extended family reunion to which some people travel hundreds of miles, particularly in cases involving a family graveyard where remote ancestors as well as those who were deceased more recently are buried. People gather on the designated day, put flowers on graves, renew contacts with relatives and others, and hold a religious service and a picnic-like "dinner on the grounds," the traditional term for a potluck meal at a church. This practice may reflect the real origin of the "memorial day" idea, but it was the Civil War that galvanized the practice due to the vast number of casualties (over 600,000).

  2. During the war, Northern prisoners of war had been held at the Washington Race Course and Jockey Club (now Hampton Park) in Charleston, South Carolina, and at least 257 of them died and were buried in unmarked graves. When the war was over, newly-freed slaves reinterred them, cleaned up the site, landscaped the burial ground within an enclosure, and erected an arch with the legend "Martyrs of the Race Course;" on 1 May some a mixed-race procession of 10,000 people held a commemoration ceremony; several hundred women bore wreaths and crosses, and 3,000 children from the new freedmen's schools carried roses. The crowd sang spirituals and patriotic songs and then picnicked while members of the 54th Massachusetts and 34th and 104th US Colored Troops marched in precision drills. In addition, that same year the federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead, and during the war women had developed an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves; by 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union dead had been reinterred in 73 national cemeteries located near major battlefields, mainly in the South. On 25 April 1866, women in Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate dead alike in the city's cemetery and held Memorial Day services; through the efforts of the Ladies Memorial Association, the practice and name spread quickly throughout the South, though the celebrations ranged from April 25 to mid-June. In imitation, on 5 May 1868 General John A. Logan, the commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union Civil War veterans, issued a proclamation calling for "Decoration Day" to be observed annually and nationwide; it was observed for the first time on Sunday, 30 May, considered the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom. Events were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states that year, and 336 the next, sponsored by the GAR's women's auxiliary the Women's Relief Corps. Michigan made Decoration Day an official state holiday in 1871, and by 1890 every Northern state had followed suit. After 1882 the usual name for the holiday changed gradually from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

  3. Meanwhile, Southern states appended "Confederate" to the title after Northerners co-opted the holiday; by 1890, the emphasis of Confederate Memorial Days had shifted from honoring specific soldiers to a public commemoration of the "lost cause" and by 1913 to American nationalism as well. In July of that year veterans of the United States and Confederate armies gathered in Gettysburg to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war's bloodiest battle; the four-day "Blue-Gray Reunion" featured parades, re-enactments, and speeches from a host of dignitaries, including Woodrow Wilson, the first Southerner elected president after the war. In 1920, the National American Legion adopted the poppy as their official symbol of remembrance, inspired by the opening lines of "In Flanders Fields," written after the Second Battle of Ypres by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the Canadian Expeditionary Force:

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place, and in the sky,
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    We are the dead; short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.

    Take up our quarrel with the foe!
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high!
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    Gradually, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, merged, and after World War II were usually called Memorial Day, which became the official name in 1967.

  4. In May 1961 US president John F. Kennedy outlined his objectives in the ongoing civil war between South Vietnam and the communist North Vietnam ("to prevent communist domination of South Vietnam; to create in that country a viable and increasingly democratic society, and to initiate, on an accelerated basis, a series of mutually supporting actions of a military, political, economic, psychological, and covert character designed to achieve this objective") and sent detachments of Green Berets special operations units to train South Vietnamese soldiers in guerrilla warfare. His successor Lyndon B. Johnson sent 5,000 additional military advisers in July 1964. Less than a week later, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer "USS Maddox," which was collecting electronic intelligence in the Gulf of Tonkin. Johnson used the attack to persuade Congress to give him broad powers to conduct military operations without an actual declaration of war. American forces rose from 16,000 during 1964 to more than 553,000 by 1969, supported by troops from the Republic of Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines. In March 1965 US marines disembarked at Da Nang as the first official combat troops (as opposed to military advisors), and in May the 173rd Airborne Brigade became the first Army ground unit committed to the conflict. In August Operation Starlite became the first major US ground operation.

  5. Soldiers served a one-year tour of duty, depriving units of experienced leadership, and there were no secure rear areas for rest and relaxation. To relieve boredom, marijuana use became rampant. Most combat was conducted by units smaller than battalion-size (the majority at the platoon level), who marched hard through difficult terrain, through harsh weather conditions that were alternately hot and dry or cold and wet. The objective was to kill enemy troops rather than take and hold territory, which was often abandoned as soon as it was seized. In a few instances American soldiers attacked villages and murdered civilians. The North Vietnamese effectively conducted a war of sniping, booby traps, mines, and terror against the Americans. Dissent at home grew: in 1967 the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam marched on the United Nations in New York and on the Pentagon, the American military headquarters, in Washington. On 30 January 1968, North Vietnamese forces broke the Tết holiday truce and mounted their largest offensive thus far, hoping to spark a general uprising; they attacked nearly every city and major military installation in South Vietnam. The Americans and South Vietnamese quickly responded and inflicted severe casualties on their enemies, essentially eliminating the Communist guerrillas as a fighting force. The fighting lasted three days in Saigon and continued for a month in Huế, where 2,800 South Vietnamese were murdered. However, despite the North's military catastrophe, the Tết offensive marked the beginning of the end of American popular support for the war, as the public concluded that either it had been lied to or that the American military command had been dangerously overoptimistic in its appraisal of the situation. Antiwar protests grew in size and frequency. Two months after the offensive Johnson announced that he would not seek re-election and limited his bombing campaign against the North. A few days later North Vietnam agreed to contacts between the two sides and Paris peace talks began in May.

  6. In November Richard Nixon was elected president and tried to reduce American casualties by pursuing a Vietnamization policy: building up the strength of the South Vietnamese armed forces and re-equipping it with modern weapons so that they could defend their nation on their own. The Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam was a massive demonstration and teach-in across the United States in October 1969, with millions participating throughout the world, followed by a large Moratorium March on Washington in November, which attracted over 500,000 demonstrators, including many performers and activists. This had been preceeded by a 2-day March against Death in which over 40,000 people silently paraded in single file down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, each bearing a placard with the name of a dead American soldier or a destroyed Vietnamese village; in front of the Capitol building they put the placards in coffins. Activists at some universities continued to hold monthly "Moratoria" on the 15th of each month. Morale in the ranks rapidly declined during 1969–1972, discipline declined, drug use worsened, and fraggings of officers (being killed by their own disgruntled troops) increased. The credibility of the U.S. government suffered further in 1971 when newspapers serially published "The Pentagon Papers," which revealed Kennedy's complicity in the assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngô Đình Diệm in 1963, Johnson's obfuscations to Congress about the Gulf of Tonkin incidents, and the clandestine bombing of Laos that had begun in 1964. In 1970 Nixon invaded Cambodia to destroy North Vietnamese sanctuaries bordering South Vietnam, sparking new large-scale demonstrations. Nixon announced 40,000 more troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam before Christmas. In 1971 Australia and New Zealand decided to withdraw their troops from the conflict. The number of American forces dropped to 196,700 in October, the lowest level since January 1966, and in November Nixon set a February deadline for the removal of another 45,000 troops. But in the spring of 1972 North Vietnam launched a new offensive, overran the three northernmost provinces of South Vietnam, and drove south toward Huế, while another force advanced out of Cambodia and advanced toward the provincial capital of An Lộc in Bình Long province, and a third expedition seized South Vietnamese outposts near Dak To and advanced toward Kon Tum, threatening to split the country in two. The US responded by resuming air operations in the North, and the South Vietnamese recovered most of their lost territories. By June only six US infantry battalions remained, and the last American ground troops left in August; by November only 24,000 American troops remained. Just before the elections in November, the head of the US negotiating team, Henry Kissinger, declared that "peace is at hand," but nevertheless the war continued. In December the US conducted massive air raids against Hanoi and the port of Haiphong. On 15 January 1973, citing new progress in peace negotiations, Nixon announced the suspension of all offensive actions against North Vietnam, to be followed by a unilateral withdrawal of all US troops. The Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, officially ending direct American involvement in the war, five days after Johnson's death. More than 58,000 US military personnel died as a result of the conflict. The social division engendered by the war continued to be expressed by the lack of public and institutional support for the returning service personnel, and their benefits were dramatically less than those enjoyed after World War II. The were widely stereotyped as psychologically devastated, bitter, homeless, drug-addicted people who had a hard time readjusting to society.

  7. The Purple Heart is an American military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving in the military since World War n 1917. In 1782 George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit, a heart made of purple cloth, which he awarded to three of his soldiers. Although never abolished, its award was never again officially proposed. In 1927 the army chief of staff directed that a draft bill be sent to Congress "to revive the Badge of Military Merit," but the bill was withdrawn the next year. In 1931 the next chief of staff, Douglas MacArthur, confidentially reopened work on a new design with the Washington Commission of Fine Arts. Elizabeth Will redesigned the new medal, which was released on 22 February 1932, the bicentennial of Washington's birth. The first one was awarded to MacArthur.

  8. The battle of Belleau Wood, one of the bloodiest and most ferocious American battles World War I, was fought from 1–26 June 1918. The Russian surrender on the Eastern Front in March had freed up nearly 50 German divisions, which were used against the Allies on the Western Front in a series of offensives before new US forces could be fully deployed. In an offensive against the French between Soissons and Reims, elements from the German 237th, 10th, 197th, 87th, and 28th Divisions moved into Belleau Wood against major general Omar Bundy's US 2nd Division, which included the 5th Marine Brigade under Army general James Harbord. Retreating French forces repeatedly urged the marines to turn back, but captain Lloyd W. Williams of the 2nd Battalion responded, "Retreat? Hell, we just got here." On 6 June Major Julius Turrill, commander of the Marine 1st Battalion, attacked Hill 142 but only had two companies, the 49th and 67th, in position, and the marines were decimated. Captain Crowther of the 67th was killed almost immediately, and the company lost all of its officers except one, but Capt. Hamilton and the 49th continued their advance, though with the loss of all five of his junior officers. Gunnery sergeant Ernest A. Janson repelled 12 German soldiers, killing two with his bayonet before the others fled; he would be the first marine to receive the Medal of Honor in World War I. The rest of the 1st Batallion finally arrived and captured Hill 142 by early afternoon at a cost of nine officers and most of the 325 enlisted men. On 6 June two-time Medal of Honor winner gunnery sgt Dan Daly urged an assaault into Belleau Wood against deadly machine gun fire, shouting, "Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?" The day's casualties (31 officers and 1,056 enlisted) were the highest in Marine Corps history up to that time, but the marines gained their foothold. On 10 June, the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, attacked north into the wood. and on 11 June the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, attacked from the west, but instead of moving northeast they had mistakenly moved directly across the wood's narrow waist and were decimated by interlocked machine gun fire; however, they managed to smash the German southern defensive lines. On 26 June, the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, under Major Maurice E. Shearer, finally cleared the Germans from the forest. It had taken six assaults, often reduced to using only their bayonets or fists in hand-to-hand combat. The Americans suffered 9,777 casualties, including 1,811 killed; German casualties are unknown, but 1,600 were taken prisoner. The French renamed the forest "Bois de la Brigade de Marine" ("Wood of the Marine Brigade").

  9. )ne month after the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, American troops entered Fallujah on 23 April 23. On 31 March 2004 Iraqi insurgents from the Brigades of Martyr Ahmed Yassin in Fallujah ambushed a convoy, dragged four American contractors employed by Blackwater USA from their cars, beat them, set them ablaze, then dragged their corpses through the streets before hanging them over a bridge across the Euphrates river. In response the marines commenced Operation Vigilant Resolve and surrounded the city. The Iraqi National Guard was supposed to work alongside them but instead they discarded their uniforms and deserted. The mission cost the lives of 40 marines and between 271 and 731 Iraqis before it was aborted. The US declared a unilateral truce in early May to allow for humanitarian supplies to enter Fallujah and withdrew to the city outskirts. An Iraqi mediation team tried to set up negotiations between the Americans and local leaders but sporadic fighting and airstrikes continued. In October and early November the military resumed daily aerial attacks using precision-guided munitions against militant "safe houses," restaurants, and meeting places in the city while preparing for a new assault. On 7 November the Iraq interim government declared a 60-day state of emergency, as insurgents carried out several car bomb attacks in the Fallujah area, killing Iraqi army and police, American marines, and Iraqi civilians. The next day prime minister Iyad Allawi publicly authorized an offensive in Fallujah and Ramadi. Operation Phantom Fury against the western outskirts included 2,000 marines, soldiers and 600 Iraqi troops; they secured two bridges, seized a hospital and the rail yards north of the city, and arrested about 50 men there, half of whom were later released. Ten Americans were killed in the fighting (22 wounded in the first two days), and insurgent casualty were estimated at 85 to 90. US forces prevented male refugees from leaving the combat zone and tplaced the city under a strict night-time shoot-to-kill curfew. By 18 November the reported 1,00 insurgents killed and 1,00 captured, 51 Americans and 425 wounded, and 8 Iraqi soldiers killed and 43 wounded. By 2 December the US death toll reached 71. Americn and Iraqi military destroyed 60 mosques used as fighting positions, out of 100 in the city. More than half of Fallujah's 39,000 homes were damaged and about 10,000 of them destroyed. Residents were allowed to return to the city in mid-December after undergoing biometric identification, but only 10% of the pre-offensive inhabitants had returned as of mid-January and only 30% by the end of March 2005.

  10. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA or DVA) is a government-run military veteran benefit system that was estblished in 1930 with 54 hospitals but was not elevated to cabinet level until 1989. It operates 153 medical centers, more than 700 clinics, 126 nursing home care units, and 35 domiciliaries and administers benefits for veterans, their families, and survivors.
    Walmart is the world's largest company by revenue and the largest private employer (with 2.2 million employees). In 1945 Sam Walton purchased a branch of the Ben Franklin stores from the Butler Brothers. His business plan was to sacrifice profit margins in order to boost volume. Sales increased 45% in his first year of ownership to $105,000 in revenue (and rose to $140,000 the next year and $175,000 the year after that). By its fifth year of operation it was generating $250,000 in revenue. Unable to renew is lease, he opened Walton's Five and Dime. In 1962 he opened the first Walmart Discount City, which expanded to 24 stores across Arkansas and reached $12.6 million in sales. In 1968 he opened his first stores outside Arkansas (in Missouri and Oklahoma) and incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. the following year. The first Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in 1988, and Walton retired as CEO but remained as chairman of the board until his death in 1992; his heirs still own over 50% of the firm through their individual holdings and their holding company, Walton Enterprises. By 1990, Walmart was the largest US retailer by revenue, though most of its stores were still in the South and lower Midwest; it did not have outlets in every state until 1995,but had expanded into Mexico in 1981 and Canada in 1994. In 1995 it had stores in Argentina and Brazil. In 1998 the firm introduced the "Neighborhood Market" concept with three stores in Arkansas, and by 2005 the firm controlled about 20% of the retail grocery and consumables business. In 2002, it became the largest corporation in the US.
    The US Constitution went into effect in 1789 and was amended by the Bill of Rights in 1791. Amendment II reds, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." It was based partially on the right to keep and bear arms in English common law and was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689; the British jurist William Blackstone described it as an auxiliary right, supporting the natural rights of self-defense, resistance to oppression, and the civic duty to act in concert in defense of the state. In United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the Supreme Court limited its applicability to the federal government, and in United States v. Miller (1939), the court ruled that the federal government and the states could limit any weapon types not having a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia."


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