Christmas is past, and my writer's block is finally gone. So here are my impressions from the last Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge meeting that my buddy Doug and I attended last month.
First, in answer to my question about the value they placed on tactics as opposed to strategy, the vast majority of the vets I talked to responded in the following vein. They weren't concerned about the big picture. Mostly what they cared about was themselves, their fox hole buddy, and their unit. Sound tactics kept them safe, or at least as safe as it's possible to be in the midst of a battle. It was only when they went on leave or after the war that they learned of and criticized the grand strategy. I have learned from these vets and my reading that soldiers complain. They always have, and they always will at least among themselves. They feel it's their right, earned by dint of their submission to discipline and hardship that is absent from civilian life. I couldn't agree more.
Second, the speaker was a copilot on a bombing run who was shot down and taken prisoner by the Germans. He was excellent and was the third speaker we've had who was a POW, one from the Pacific and two from Europe. Their stories were all different. Yet they contained common elements. To paraphrase a short essay by Bill Hall, an ex-POW in Europe:
"The POW experiences hunger, cold (or heat), fear, anger and deep depression that the rest of us can never imagine."
The ex-POW can show you a loaf of bread made mostly from sawdust which at times was his only sustenance, and you are horrified as I was when my friend showed me one that he brought home from the war. But you and I can never really understand what the POW's went through. We weren't there, and thank God for that.
Finally, the members of the group voted to cut the number of meetings per year from four to two. I understand their reasons, but it still makes me sad. I enjoy these meetings immensely. They're not all about sad stories. They're also about seeing these people who have become friends, good conversation, and laughter. Sorry to end on such a sad note, but that's all there is to say. Good night.
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