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And Another Thing


A few Veterans Day thoughts

So it's the day before Veteran's Day and I've got ESPN on the tube while the coffee brews, and once again I'm hearing one of their on-air poodles (I don't know who; they all run together after awhile) talk about how much football borrows from the culture of war and the military.

That's when I pick up the remote and change channels.

I really don't want to hear any more of these analogies, because in the first place they're hackneyed, and in the second place they're an affront to any veteran who's ever actually experienced war close-to. Unless Peyton Manning lines up against machine guns and triangulated artillery fire on Sunday, there is no analogy.

It's possible this is an overreaction on my part. It's possible (and it wouldn't be the first time) I'm making too much of this.

But I have a dad and two uncles who served in the military, and one of the uncles, a Marine, fought in the Korean War. And I've met too many other veterans -- good men called upon to do something no one should ever be called upon to do -- to suffer gladly cheesy comparisons to what is, at bottom, child's play.

My dad and uncles and the veterans of Korea and Big Two (World War II to us civilians) deserve better than that. God knows we forget what they did too much as it is.

There's a place in eastern France, not far from the town of St. Mihiel, where a large hill named Montsec looms over lush fields of wheat still dotted here and there by the crumbling remains of old German pillboxes. You can see this escarpment for miles. And you can see what's on top of it for miles.

It's a massive white marble rotunda, open to the sky. The United States built it there in 1931 to commemorate the St. Mihiel offensive, one of the first solely American actions of World War I -- which, of course, ended on this very day 91 years ago. My wife and I were there with our English guide in the summer of 2005. It was a gorgeous day; we sat in the shadow of the rotunda and ate lunch. No other tourists were there.

"Yeah, hardly anyone comes here," our guide said, before we moved on to tour St. Mihiel American Cemetery at Thiaucourt/Meurthe-et-Moselle, where row upon row of geometrically aligned white crosses stretch as far as the eye can see.

Lest, as they say, we forget

Ben Smith's blog.