Veterans Day is today and time once again to salute all those who have worn a uniform of America’s armed forces. Veterans Day ceremonies are always at the 11th hour of the 11th day on the 11th month. All those 11’s are in reference to the signing of the armistice that brought an end to World War I. It’s been a legal holiday since 1938.
In school, I wasn’t taught too much about World War I passed the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo and the alliances between European countries. And oh yes, the flu epidemic, but didn’t comprehend the impact it had on the world until I read The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman. By the time the war ended in 1918, countries in every continent were involved, and new countries were springing up in Europe.
Oh, as an aside, I just learned – amidst all my fascination with November dates and history – that this year November has been rechristened Movember. According to the Movember website, “men are facing a health crisis that isn’t being talked about. They are dying too young, before their time.” Now, I’m not exactly certain what their “time” is, but I do know my brother died at 61 and I’ve got a few male friends that have passed on way before the old school threescore and ten age-yardstick.
What they’re talking about is that women, on average, live six years longer than men and one factor is the rate of male-specific cancers.
The message of Movember is: Grow a mustache. Put down that razor. Get yourself a chin curtain or some muttonchops. Then take the money you would normally spend shaving your face and donate it to the American Cancer Society, which will go toward funding for better research into prostate and testicular cancers. Not a bad thing.
Anyway, we guys don’t mind being a little hairy or, at the very least, stubbly. Is that a word?
These days anything goes when it comes to ‘staches and beards, as opposed to pre-1960s when they were mostly confined to hippies, artists, college professors and Freudian psychiatrists.
But on the other hand, just look at all the U.S. presidents who had beards, like Abe Lincoln, and check out President Roosevelt’s cookie duster on Mount Rushmore. But of course, he was a Rough Rider and had a big stick. Back in the old days, even soldiers sported whiskers.
But with Veterans Day on my mind, I don’t think that would work in today’s military. As I recall, there was a facial chart when I was in the Air Force that had dotted lines on the face that indicated how the mustache should look.
Besides the mostly clean-shaven thing, serving in the military is a funny thing. Not ha-ha funny, but funny as in just different, or maybe even perplexing (at first) when compared to civilian life. First, it’s not like the movies and it’s not very democratic. You not only wear a uniform every day, but you must also wear it correctly, including headgear, and if there’s one thing that separates the branches, it’s their hats. You have the garrison hat for the Air Force and Marines, the Navy’s traditional “dixie cup” hat, and then there’s the Army’s beret. I’ve got to admit, a beret has flair and a military beret means business, although I wouldn’t trade my cowboy hat for one.
One more thing, ranks are serious business. If someone outranks you, you must obey their orders. Without question. Unless it’s when you’re told to jump, you may ask how high. But then again showing initiative is a good thing, as WW II General George Patton was heard to remark, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
Having said all that, I should throw in here that only veterans and those currently serving have the license to joke or complain about the military. I was actually told, “Once a soldier stops complaining is the time to worry.”
But I digress. A Veterans Day observance will be held again at Isidro Baca Veterans Park.
I read that in New Mexico we have somewhere around 175,000 veterans, with maybe 1,800 right here in Socorro County, so I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone knows someone who has served, or maybe have served themselves, or are serving right now. But when you think about it, only a fraction of the population goes into the service, and as of right now I read that only 7.3 percent of all living Americans have served in the military at some point in their lives.
Personally, joining the military was probably the best I ever made for myself.
As for facial hair, I was one of those kids who didn’t need to shave until after boot camp. But one thing’s for sure, it will always be a mannish, masculine sort of thing. As the saying goes, “Beards have been making ugly men look handsome for centuries.”