Tag Archives: Veterans Day

Well done, Mr. President; thanks for honoring fallen vets

Something unexpected happened today that surprised many Americans.

Donald J. Trump paid an unannounced visit today to Arlington National Cemetery to help lay wreaths on graves of those who are buried there. He did so — get this! — in the rain. He was photographed carrying an umbrella while visiting the gravesites throughout the cemetery, which is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

You’ll recall while the president was in France to commemorate the 100th year since the end of World War I that he skipped a ceremony because of inclement weather. He said the Secret Service had advised him against flying aboard Marine One to the ceremony. It was raining that day and, not surprisingly, social media jumped all over the president’s declining to stand in the rain.

He stood in the rain today at Arlington National Cemetery.

What’s more, Trump took a lot of public grief for refusing to go to Arlington on Veterans Day. He said at the time that he had a busy time at the White House and couldn’t break away to honor the fallen veterans. He broke with many decades of presidential tradition; presidents usually attend Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery. Trump chose to stay inside on that day.

Trump did acknowledge that he erred in declining to go to Arlington on Veterans Day; he expressed “regret” for his no-show.

Well, today he sought to atone for what was a mistake a little more than a month ago. Today is National Wreaths Across America Day. Donald Trump thought he should take part. He was so very correct to do so.

Well done, sir. This veteran thanks you.

What if Obama had done any of this?

“We should be intellectually honest here at this table that if President Obama had missed Veterans Day or missed the Armistice ceremony in France for the 100th anniversary of World War I, my head would have exploded right here on this table in front of all of you.”

So said Meghan McCain, daughter of the late, great Republican U.S. senator, John McCain, and a co-host of the TV show “The View.”

I believe she speaks for a lot of Americans who are dismayed, disgusted and so very disappointed in recent actions and remarks by Donald J. Trump, the president of the United States.

So many on the right and the far right have been strangely silent regarding the president’s recent action — or inaction — in Europe. He declined to attend a ceremony in France honoring the Americans who fell during World War I, then skipped Veterans Day services at Arlington National Cemetery.

Now, to his credit, the president did express some regret at failing to show for the Arlington cemetery event. That doesn’t excuse what he declined to do in the moment.

Couple all of that with what he has said in recent days about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and the disparaging he has leveled at the Navy admiral, William McRaven, who coordinated the May 2011 assault and you have even more reason for “heads to explode.”

They aren’t. Except for Meghan McCain, a self-described political conservative.

Yes, just try to imagine the reaction had all of this come from a liberal Democrat. It is pointless to suggest how progressives, such as yours truly, would react had any of this occurred on Barack Obama’s watch. Thankfully, I don’t recall it ever happening prior to Donald Trump becoming president.

I do believe Meghan McCain’s assertion about her own noggin “exploding” on national TV.

Hell freezes over: POTUS expresses ‘regret’

I guess hell has frozen over, finally.

Donald J. Trump says he “regrets” not attending a Veterans Day commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery. He stayed at the White House during the day. He had no public events. His schedule was clear.

The president did manage to fire off nine tweets during the day.

Yet he now expresses a bit of regret over his no-show at Arlington.

He made the admission to Fox News’s Chris Wallace, to whom he said “in retrospect” he made a bad call on a day set aside to honor the nation’s veterans.

It’s an unusual step for a president who says he never apologizes. He has said he hasn’t ever sought forgiveness. Donald Trump doesn’t look back on his deeds or statements. Introspection isn’t included in the Trumpian vocabulary, according to the president.

What do we make of this semi-contrition?

I don’t know. It might signal an awakening by this president. Or, it might just be a touch of pandering.

I’ll reserve any final determination for later. In the meantime, I’ll hope for the best — but prepare for the worst.

POTUS’s patriotism at issue?

I guess I’m missing something here.

Barack Obama’s critics were hair-trigger quick to criticize the president as “unpatriotic,” concocting all kinds of reasons to lay that unfair criticism on him.

So, his successor, Donald J. Trump, goes to Europe to commemorate the 100th year since the end of World War I. What does he (not) do? He declines to attend a ceremony at an American cemetery outside of Paris, citing inclement weather; dozens of other heads of state attended the ceremony.

The president then attends another ceremony the next day before coming home.

Then he declines to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, the day the government recognizes as Veterans Day. Neither did the vice president.

And yet … the critics who blasted President Obama continually over his alleged lack of love of country have been quiet about Donald Trump’s absence at two places honoring our fallen warriors.

Hmm. Hypocrisy, anyone?

If only we could change human behavior

This is no flash, no great scoop.

Human beings have been going to war with each other since the beginning of time. Certainly since the beginning of recorded history, which also goes way back.

Thus, when human beings find it impossible to settle disagreements without resorting to extreme violence, we’ll always have veterans. Men and women are answering the call of their governments to take up arms.

I join many others in wishing we could end all war. However, that is perhaps the most unrealistic expectation one can have. I detest having to say such a thing, but you know it’s true as much as I know it to be true.

For as long as lunatics continue to walk the Earth, for as long as there are tyrants or would-be tyrants who seek to subjugate other human beings, there will be war.

The same can be said of the prospect of ridding our world of losers who assassinate world leaders. Indeed, the murder of a central European head of state ignited the War to End All Wars in 1914. Today, we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of what became — sadly, tragically — as World War I.

There would be another global conflagration in the 20th century.

And others have followed since then. They all have produced heroes. They also have turned men and women into veterans. They were called to duty by their government or they volunteered to serve, they chose to sacrifice large segments of their life to defend our nation … or any nation, for that matter.

And, most certainly, many of them volunteered to sacrifice their own lives in their nations’ defense. We must honor them, all of those who served. Not just on Veterans Day, but every single day!

Can we ever end international conflict? Realistically, no.

Instead, we will continue to honor those who defended us — from ourselves. We’ll do so until someone finds a way to change human behavior.

Good luck with that.

Vets are bound together by common experience

I heard an interesting analysis on National Public Radio about the dysfunction that has troubled the U.S. Congress in recent years.

It is that so few members of Congress — House members and senators — are veterans. The analyst noted that today, about 20 percent of congressmen and women are veterans; that total used to be around 70 percent.

Do you see where this is going?

We’re about to celebrate Veterans Day and I thought that observation was worth noting as a way to suggest that military service has contributed to a better-functioning Congress than what we have today.

I think of the World War II veterans who came home from completing their mission to save the world from tyranny. They went about rebuilding their lives. Some of them chose careers in public service. The ran for the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. They won and were thrown together on Capitol Hill.

They forged partnerships and friendships. They had a common bond. Their friendship crossed the partisan divide. Democrats and Republicans all had been to battle. They all had fought a common enemy.

Congressional lore is full of legendary friendships that bridged that partisan divide: Republican Bob Dole and Democrat Daniel Inouye; Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat John F. Kennedy; Republican Barry Goldwater and Democrat George McGovern. These men were political opponents, but they each respected each other. They had earned their mutual respect because of their service in defense of the nation they all loved.

The Vietnam War produced a similar bond among brothers. Republican John McCain and Democrat John Kerry became good friends during their time in the U.S. Senate. They worked together to craft a normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam. Republican Chuck Hagel returned from ‘Nam to serve in the Senate, along with Democrat Bob Kerrey.

The Vietnam War generation, along with the World War II and the Korean War generation, contributed mightily to a government that actually worked.

That kind of camaraderie appears to be missing today. Yes, Congress is sprinkled with vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. They, too, belong to both major political parties. I don’t sense that they have yet made their mark on the larger governing body. Perhaps it will come in due course.

The veterans who have served first in the military and then in both chambers of Congress have done demonstrated the value of common experience. It translates into political comity and collegiality … a lot more of which we can use today.

Hoping we don’t pervert Veterans Day

The nation is going to celebrate Veterans Day soon.

There will be parades, speeches, statements of gratitude and expressions of pride and thanks for those who have served in the military.

Our oldest veterans are in their 90s now. They saved the nation from tyranny. Those who answered the call in the decades since World War II also served to protect our national rights and liberty and the aspects that make this country so unique and special among the roster of nations around the world.

Of late, we’ve seen a perversion of what we’ve all sought to honor and salute. I was one of those vets who spent some time in the Army. My country sent me to Vietnam during a much different time, when we weren’t so grateful for the service performed by those of us who did our duty.

We all served to protect our special liberties. They include the right to protest our government policies. That right is protected stringently by the U.S. Constitution. The perversion has come from those who have castigated U.S. citizens who happen to be profession athletes; those athletes have chosen to protest certain government policies by “taking a knee” during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of sporting events.

Even the president of the United States has weighed in, saying those athletes are “disrespecting” the flag, the nation and those who served the nation in the military.

I beg to differ with the president. There’s no disrespect being shown toward any of what’s been described. As a veteran, I take not one ounce of personal affront to those who kneel to express their political point of view.

Indeed, I believe we all served to guarantee them the right to do what they have done … and continue to do.

So, as we prepare to honor our veterans yet again this year, let us be mindful of the rights we have and of the Americans who have fought — and died — to guarantee we can exercise them without fear of recrimination.

Vets get fitting honor with highway loop


Every year at this time, veterans from around the Texas Panhandle gather at the Randall County Courthouse Annex.

They slap each other on the back, some reminisce about common experiences in the military. Those who had served in war zones compare notes, swap stories and thank each other for their service.

They sit in front of the Texas Panhandle War Memorial and hear speeches and proclamations and expressions of thanks from elected officials.

Today, though, they also heard during the Veterans Day ceremony about a worthy dedication.

Loop 335, a 43-mile thoroughfare that encircles Amarillo, has been named Veterans Highway. Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell and Potter County Judge Nancy Tanner spoke about that dedication.

I am grateful that the loop now honors those who served their country.

There once was a time when I thought Loop 335 would provide a fitting memorial to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I wrote something to that effect in a column many years ago. I still want the community honor Dr. King in such a fashion someday and I hope that comes to pass.

Loop 335, given that it circles the city, holding it together, provides a fitting way to honor whomever the city and the counties through it travels choose.

The western-most segment of the loop, of course, will be extended beyond Soncy, which has become just another busy street in Amarillo. The state has begun expansion work on the southern portion of the loop to ensure that it remains free of the congestion that clogs Soncy.

Now the thoroughfare honors veterans as it carries the name Veterans Highway.

This veteran thanks the city and the two counties for their actions to honor those who’ve answered the call to duty.


Dear Dad: You made me proud


I’ve written before about my favorite veteran.

He was my late father, Peter John Kanelis, a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy who survived the horrifying crucible of World War II.

I wrote the first time about his service two years ago.

Dad saw the bulk of his combat in the Mediterranean Sea, engaging in the invasions of North Africa, Sicily and Italy. He endured relentless bombing and strafing by the Luftwaffe, had the ship on which he served sunk by an Italian dive bomber, and was credited with shooting down a Juncker JU-88 German bomber while manning a .50-caliber deck gun during the Sicilian campaign.

He told me of a time he was standing guard while on shore patrol in Tunisia and he shot to death someone who had breached his unit’s perimeter. Was it an enemy soldier? No, Dad said. It was a local guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Dad was like almost all World War II vets in this regard: He didn’t volunteer much about his experiences during that war. Oh, he’d talk about it if someone asked. And yes, I asked him about those days. We talked often while I was growing up.

I learned about how he joined the Navy just a few weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, how he went through an abbreviated boot camp in San Diego as the U.S. War Department sought to get mobilized in a hurry and how he learned his seamanship skills aboard ship while steaming to Great Britain.

Mom would tell me that Dad suffered for a time upon his return from the war from a form of shell shock — which they now call “post-traumatic stress disorder.”

It would manifest itself, Mom said, when Dad would hear the sound of an airplane. He’d flinch and look up, she said. All that constant bombardment made Dad quite jumpy when he heard the sound of aircraft overhead.

He got past that period of his life.

He intended to be join the Marine Corps the day he enlisted. As luck would have it, the USMC office was closed that day; he walked across the hall and joined the Navy. I believe he would have made as good a Marine as he was a sailor.

But to be honest, I’m grateful Dad was spared the task of potentially having to storm ashore amid a hail of enemy bullets.

His Navy duty was rough enough.

Dad’s been gone for 35 years. This much hasn’t dimmed one single bit as the nation prepares to commemorate Veterans Day: I’m as proud of my father’s service to his country now as I was when I first learned about it.

What a difference two generations make

Al Sharpton’s TV show is rumbling in the background in my home office.

Then he introduced an upcoming segment about ensuring how to find jobs for “our troops.”

Something curious occurs to me. Sharpton is a noted progressive/liberal. I’ve spoken already to the way America has changed its attitude toward veterans and military personnel during the past two generations.

Given that I don’t know Sharpton, nor can I read his mind or peer into his soul, I’ll ask the question with some caution: Would this particular progressive talk-show host have this discussion during the Vietnam War, when many Americans were (a) turning their backs on returning veterans or (b) spitting in their faces?

He would say that he never did those things back in the old days. A lot of liberals did, however.

They’ve changed. I hear many liberal and progressive commentators on the air say much the same thing that Sharpton said today. They want to honor our veterans and those who are fighting for our freedom.

I’m glad the country has changed its attitude. I also am happy to hear progressives talk about jobs programs for veterans, calling on Americans to honor them by employing them when they return from the battlefield.

It wasn’t always this way.