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Thank You for Your Service

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on November 7, 2020 14:10

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The willingness to serve in the armed forces, to put one's own life at risk for the safety of the nation, should be proof of civic virtue. Hercules slew King Augeas after completing a task thought impossible. Let us respect, and honor those who served.

He opened for us – a young man with shoulders nearly as wide as the doorway. His eyes were direct, his handshake rock solid. Such a change from the boy we saw two years earlier, a lanky kid with no clear ideas, eyes shifting to his mother's cooking, evasive and unsure about the military service before him, his career afterward. What a change two years made, with Officer training at one of the hardest infantry schools, several operational tours under combat conditions, and a court-martial.

South African troops patrolling in Angola. Wikipedia CC BY 3.1


"Dad will be here soon. Mother is finishing the dinner. You took whisky, uncle?" I asked about the court-martial. A patrol to a remote area for possible enemy intrusion. An accident, a broken leg. Compound fracture, and no radio communication to request an urgent medevac. The signaler managed to get a truck driver in Texas to call the South African Army Headquarters, the only number he could recall. A helicopter appeared three hours later, with a relief officer. The charge: unauthorized dissemination of military positions and force strength, operation on unauthorized frequencies, breaking secrecy.

Border war. It was believed that chopper pilots could walk on water. Photo Corrie, Pinterest

“I did what I had to do, it was my man lying there. His life was worth more than a regulation.” He was discharged with commendation.

Many South African boys, of all race groups, fell in that war or survived with permanent physical or psychological scars. Many were vilified for having defended Apartheid. There is a disjuncture. Soldiers do not fight for a policy, a political ideology, they fight for a flag and a constitution.

The concept of civic virtue was debated by Socrates and Plato. Aristotle saw citizenship as composed of political duties rather than rights. American revolutionaries admired Cincinnatus, a Roman farmer who left off plowing to mobilize and lead an army against the enemies of Rome. He forced the Aequi to admit defeat and returned to his plow after fifteen days of absolute power.

In his novel "Starship Troopers," SciFi writer Robert Heinlein explored the idea of a state where only men and women who had demonstrated the willingness to serve can vote and serve in certain positions. People only have the rights they are willing to fight and die for, he argues.

Heinlein was criticized for promoting militarism. Veterans returning from Vietnam were publicly vilified. I asked my young friend about that. His answer was short. "They weren't there. Politicians take decisions, we implement them. Now the fighting is over, and I will have something to say." His generation served, then voted to end Apartheid.

The poppy a symbol of the 11 November Armistice ending World War I. Own photo

As we remember Armistice Day, we thank them for their service.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on November 7, 2020 14:10

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Source: CNET

Celebration was postponed out of respect for George Floyd's memorial service.

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