On Veteran’s Day
We remember all those who have served. Men and Women who were willing to lay down their lives that the vast bulk of their countrymen would lie safely sleeping in their beds.
As writers, we often pay homage in little ways to those who serve by incorporating them into our tales. If the writer has not, themselves, served, this can be difficult. But here’s the thing: to get the straight scoop, all you have to do is ask a veteran. Not the callous, crass question of ‘how many did you kill?’ but a sincere ‘what’s it like?’ and then listen, really listen, instead of filtering through your preconceived notions.
I’m not going to make this a long post – it’s mostly about filling in while Sarah deals with some life-things. But I wanted to open the floor and ask the readers: what books get it right? What books get it wrong? And who do you want to say thank you to, today.
Tom Kratman, one of my favorite Baen authors, has been working on a series of columns based on one of the most famous science fiction books about veterans: Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. There is, I warn you, salty language if you read the entirety. Anyone who has spent time with veterans will expect something like that… and the level of his prose will also disabuse those who seem to think that all soldiers are stupid, and they only serve because they cannot do anything better. (PTah! A pox on those who would scorn the noble sacrifice.)
It would probably come as a big surprise in some circles but soldiers, at least American soldiers, read a great deal – much more, I think, than the civilian population at large. What do they read? They’ll read manuals, of course, if they must. Then, again, they’ll read matchbook covers in a pinch. I can recall, too, precisely seventy-seven of us, stuck for some weeks behind barbed wire at Cairo West Egyptian Air Force Base, in 1985, passing around and reading the one book we had among us – a Matt Bolan, the Executioner, piece, with all that implies – over and over and over again.
Yeah…“The horror…the horror.”
Besides reading the obvious things – Playboy and Penthouse, for example, for certain values of “reading” – they’ll read pretty much anything and everything: History, science, philosophy (yes, seriously), biography, fiction…and science fiction. Indeed, one science fiction novel, Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, published in 1959, appears on the official reading lists of three of our military services: Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.2 What, not the Army? Fear not, nearly everyone in the Army seems to have read it. And I can only recall ever running into one soldier who didn’t approve of the political system therein wholeheartedly. Even his objections seemed more along the lines of, “Well, it wouldn’t last forever so why bother?” which isn’t a terribly strong objection, really.
If you’re willing to risk dusty eyes, then you may want to read this poem written by a veteran in salute to his fallen brother’s-in-arms.