Thursday, November 13, 2008

Distracted by history

The City Council last night approved a $238 million budget (a day ahead of schedule), wherein they approved the mayor's request to increase bus fares by fifty cents (boo!), declined to cut funding for the Madison Arts Initiative (yay!), and added money for some community services (yay!).

There's a ton to go over in the new budget--plenty to both laud and whine about--but at the moment I'm too distracted by the fact that there are currently two men alive on this Earth who fought in the trenches of World War I.

I mean, holy crap! That's completely amazing.

If you've been reading this here blog for any length of time, you'll know that I'm a bit of a giant history dork, so you won't be surprised that this fact caught my attention. I was reading Kate Beaton's Rememberence Day post (and if you haven't checked out her history comics yet, do yourself a favor), and she briefly mentioned a Canadian movie about the battle of Passchendaele, and not knowing anything about it, I naturally waltzed over to Wikipedia to get myself some knowledge.

It was on that page that I stumbled across a quote from a fellow by the name of Harry Patch, who had been involved in that terrible, muddy battle. And these quotes were from 2007! Curious as all get out, I followed the Wiki-click-capade over to his page and discovered, much to my amazement, that not only is Mr. Patch still alive and kicking, but there is another man, a one Fernand Goux of France, who also served in the trenches and is also still with us today.

Seriously, this is incredible. Patch is 110 now, and Goux a spry 108. The things these guys must have seen, most especially in the war but just in general--I can't even imagine it. Born near the turn of the last century, they've seen everything from wars, the proliferation of automobiles and the internet, and men landing on the friggen moon.

There are currently only 10 veterans of WWI who are still alive (including Patch and Goux). Frankly, I'm amazed that there are any.

But this brings up an important point, relevent especially near the time of Veterans Day, that we lose veterans of various wars every day (estimates put it around 900-odd for WWII vets). It is important to both recognize and honor them for their extraordinary service, and to make sure their stories are told and remembered for long after they've passed on.

It is equally important to make sure we take good care of those veterans that are still with us. Push your legislators to support bills that would provide the appropriate levels of funding for VA services, physical and mental health care, and education for those who've served. We've had too many instances in this country of short-changing vets, and this is simply unacceptable. Instead of merely slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on a car, we must work to ensure real care and respect are paid to our troops. That includes listening to them, before it's too late.


apc said...

Not to be too glib, but all the money spent on those stupid ribbon magnets could have paid for a wing on a VA hospital.

I kept wanting veterans' issues to be brought up in the presidential campaign, but it never happened. The last eight years have been an absolute disgrace regarding the treatment of our veterans, and our active-duty troops as well, of course.

Emily said...

What did all the money spent on those magnetic ribbons go to?

The Lost Albatross