Women in the Military

November 29th, 2007

Darlene Iskra joined the Navy in 1979, and served in the Persia Gulf War from 1990-1995 and eventually achieved the rank of Commander.  In her interview she talks about bonding with the other women who were also involved in the navy and how that has changed over the years.  She said that when she was in the navy she and the other women had a special bond because they were women and that even to this day she keeps in touch with them.  However, she also mentioned that friends of hers in the navy today say that the women are more isolated and are not encouraged to help other women out.  I thought this was interesting because I would have thought they would encourage any camaraderie between their crew members.

I really enjoyed listening to her story because her experiences were quite different not only from the men, but also the women we have listened to so far because she actually served in combat.  Not only did she have to get used to the blood and gore that the women who served as nurses did, but she also had to get physically and mentally prepared for war.  In one segment of her interview, she talked about surviving dive school.  In her class there were just two girls including her, and although the men were supportive, their teacher was not and he made it as hard as he could on them.

Women Veterans

November 27th, 2007

I read Violet Hill Gordon’s interview and I really liked it.  She was not only a female officer, but she was also an African American which made it all the more challenging for her, but she persevered.  Gordon served during World War II in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) from 1939 to 1946 at a time when women were not fully appreciated in the military and before the military was desegregated.  Although one would expect a lot of storied of hardship from a black woman serving in the military, I thought it was funny that she talked about the styles of the uniforms and how it was a deciding factor for one of her friends.  And when asked about what she remembered most about her service she answered an overseas assignment and the lesbian activity in her barracks.

I also read Regina h. Schiffman’s interview.  She served in the military during the Korean War and the Vietnam War from 1950-1955 and 1961-1975.  Both of these wars were very controversial conflicts that put the country into an uproar.  These conflicts are remembered for their maltreatment of its veterans and the fact that they didn’t come home to a hero’s welcome like the veterans of World War II.  Schiffman served as a nurse in Vietnam and Korea and said of her experiences, “One comment I would like to make is that it was really a great feeling to be helping people”. 

November 26th, 2007

My grandfather served in the Korean War when he was just 19, and went through quite a scarring ordeal that haunts him to this day.  He survived a plane crash and still the effects of that day are present in his life in the form of shell shock, and ‘bad nerves’ as he describes it.  I think that for America to just over look the ‘minor’ wars is a huge mistake.  A lot of brave veterans who risked their lives for the benefit of this country are forgotten in this way, and it is just not right.  Our government has a reputation for overlooking its veterans and refusing to care for their needs, and although these wars seem to have been forgotten it does not change the fact that these vets were also overlooked.  This reputation is perpetuated when we decline to remember these lesser known wars and ‘conflicts’.  As such a powerful country in the world as we are today, we should celebrate the men and women who got us to this position much more than we currently do.

Korea and Vietnam

November 15th, 2007

I thought it was really sad that after all that these men had sacrificed, the government refused to call it a war.  Although Congress never officially dubbed either conflict as a war, to call them anything else would downplay the experiences the men faced during their time in service.  Clearly it was just a pride booster for the government who did not want to admit defeat, but at the same time, they were dishonoring the men who put their lives on the line for an ungrateful country.  Even now, decades since either ‘conflict’ was fought, our school system skips right over these wars in history classes all across the country.   Of course we all knew they had happened, but I would bet that very few of us learned anything of consequence about these conflicts at any level of public school.  Even if they had covered it in class to the SOL’s satisfaction, we certainly did not spend near as much time on it as any of America’s previous wars. 

Wages of War 23-27

November 13th, 2007

I was shocked at how the veterans were treated by the public.  Although they were supposed to have a greater understanding of the war since it had been the first war televised they were still quite ignorant of the facts.  Veterans returning home from wars have always had a difficult time for different reasons, but veterans of the Vietnam War were by far worse off.  In Born on the Fourth of July, we read about Ron Kovic’s experiences as being a veteran after the war, but in case we still needed convincing of the mistreatment they were subjected to, Wages of War provided even more insight.  Not only did the book cover the public’s reception of the veterans, but it also showed us how the VA handled them in their time of need.  Agent Orange was used by the government as an herbicide, to take away hiding areas from the Viet Cong.  However, another side effect of its use was the inadvertent poisoning of American soldiers.  Instead of admitting their mistake, they denied anything was wrong with it, as did the VA surprisingly.  When finally pressed to look into the situation, the VA hired biased herbicide analysts to supply an answer. 

 

Another surprising incident in this reading selection was about the My Lai Massacre.  Although we briefly went over this in class, I was still horrified when I read about it in the book.  After reading the brief summary of Calley’s life before the war nothing seemed to really stand out.  There were no warning signs or red flags and nothing to even hint at what he was to be infamously remembered for during his service in the war.  Similarly, after the war, although he did receive a slap on the wrist, no one could have really picked him out of a crowd as the leader of a massacre; instead he became a relatively successful jewelry sales man.  The lack of punishment he received, as well as the others who were let off the hook, is ridiculous.  Although many see him as just a scapegoat, house arrest and parole as a punishment for his barbaric actions is a joke. 

Born on the Fourth of July Pt. 2

November 8th, 2007

I know it really doesn’t compare to being a paraplegic, but I recently tore my ACL, and I can relate to what he was going through.  It is so frustrating to be left out of the things you once loved to do because of a physical impairment that you had no control over.  I am so fortunate that my knee can be repaired, but if I had to live like Ron Kovic did after his accident, I don’t think I could handle it.  In my case, all I am really missing is playing basketball with the rest of my team, but in Kovic’s case his independence was completely stripped away from him.

 

Born on the Fourth of July

November 6th, 2007

The first chapter of the book was so emotional and intense, it immediately drew me in.  It opened with one of his worst experiences in Vietnam: when he first realized he had been paralyzed.  It recounts his initial injury and the treatment he received, all with a personal element to it that is similar to Paul Fussell’s “Doing Battle”.  Like in “Doing Battle”, “Born on the Fourth of July” gets the reader involved by writing in such a way as to make the reader feel almost as if he actually knew Ron Kovic.  On page 71 Kovic talks about his high school days, being on the wrestling team and his relationship with his mother.  This not only gets the reader connected with Kovic, it also helps the reader to see war for what it really is, and not a watered-down-romanticized version that gets thrown around all over the place.  People seem to forget that they were real people, and that they had lives before the war and take for granted the sacrifice they have all made for us by romanticizing war. 

Movie

November 5th, 2007

I know a lot of people didn’t like this movie, but I thought it was really good!  There were several spots that I thought were long and drawn out, but it was also able to get its point across.  One image everybody seems to have in mind for a veteran’s homecoming is the warm and welcoming embrace of a loved one, or a joyful parade down Main Street.  However, oftentimes they seem to forget the physical, emotional, and spiritual disruption that they experienced during the war that they have yet to overcome, and the effects it has on their homecoming both from the first and second party perspectives.  Homer’s story was my favorite of all of the veterans, and I think it exemplifies the movie’s point the best. 

Greatest Generation 4,5,6,8

October 30th, 2007

I have always been aware of the issues of racism in America’s past, I have even vaguely been aware of how it affected African American men in the war.  However, I had never thought about the other minority groups who had been involved with World War II, or about the racial issues they may have faced as well.  For instance, Hispanic Americans may have not been restricted to noncombatant positions like African Americans, but the VA commonly and openly discriminated against Hispanic veterans when administering medical and educational benefits.  Similarly, just because of their heritage, Japanese Americans were discriminated against and feared not only by the general American population, but also by the government. 

Another issue that interested me was the involvement of women in the world war as well.  Although many women met resistance both in their families and in the military, they persisted and not only served as nurses but also in organizations such as the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) and in Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  In fact, ten times the number of women served in WWII as did women in WWI, a staggering 350,000. 

The Greatest Generation Comes Home 2

October 25th, 2007

While this was not one of my favorite reads so far, I thought it was well written and quite interesting.  Before reading this book, I had no idea the impact the GI Bill had on returning military men.   Compared to veterans from previous war’s homecomings, the veterans from World War II had much more aid and support than any other group before them.  This is not to say that what they returned home to was perfect.  However, the American government was able to provide them with medical care that also included mental health services, opportunities for higher education, and help finding jobs.  As much as the political attitude had to do with this increase in aid to the veterans, the favorable financial state that the government was in at the time had a great deal to do with it as well.