Veterans Day Speech By Four Arrows: Replacing Honoring and Celebrating with Empathy and Care

Veteran’s Day “Celebration and Honoring of Veterans Event” 

At Fielding Graduate University on Nov 10, 2022

A 5- minute speech- by Wahinkpe Topa (Four Arrows), aka Don Trent Jacobs

 Lt. Donald Trent Jacobs. Photo take after his first solo flight in USMC Flight School, 1969

I have been a full-time scholar-activist for Fielding’s Ed.D. program for over 20 years and continue to enjoy the amazing Fielding community.

I sum up my military connection as follows.  My dad did 36 bombing flights in WWII. My namesake died on VJ day in the Navy. While a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, I got drunk with a South Vietnamese officer in Pensacola. He told me the truth about the war. At the time a gung-ho Marine, I almost hit him until I saw the truth in his eyes.  I refused a subsequent set of orders. Then I wrote a robust anti-war letter to U.S. Senator Tom Eagleton that made it to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. It led to my honorable discharge on October 10, 1969. An accidental attachment to my DD-214 is a handwritten note from the the Marine Corp’s Administration and Resource Management’s Information Security Program. It is from First Lieutenant H.B. Jensen, Jr. to Staff Sgt. Freshour sand says:

“By Direction: One for case file,: lesson is only talk to head honcho (Commandant). This Lieutenant is one dangerous short-timer.”

In 2001, I co-founded chapter 108 of the Veterans for Peace with Tony Van Renterghem, a friend who spent 7 years in the Dutch underground during WWII. I am now working with a group of distinguished VFP members on ways to Indigenize and decolonize three of their current programs.

Second Prompt, What to be mindful of regarding mental health of military populations:

As I reflect on Veterans Day, what I believe we should be mindful of regarding the mental health of military populations is that we should not think it is beneficial for anyone to honor or celebrate individuals, including myself, who have served or are serving in the armed forces. We should replace honoring and celebrating, which leads to more glorification of war and less resistance to it, withempathy, caring, and preventive educationThis is the message of Cree legendary Buffie St. Marie’s song, “Universal Soldier,” that resulted in blacklisting her.

In one of the largest surveys available on post-9/11 veterans, “40% of veterans polled had considered suicide at least once after they joined the military.” And there are “more suicides each year than the total American military deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.” A survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “have caused mental and emotional health problems in 31% of vets — more than 800,000 of them.” An Australian study showed higher percentages of suicide rates in the children of veterans than those who were not veterans.

And what of the many vets who never report their mental problems? My father never complained of “psychiatric collapse,” as the military doctors called PTSD in WWII. After flying 36 missions as a bombardier and crash landing twice, he became an alcoholic and died of an alcohol overdose at age 52. 

Maj. General Dennis Laich, author of Skin in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots” and Erik Edstrom, a West Point graduated deployed as a infantry officer in Afghanistand and author of Un-American: A Soldier’s Reckoning of our Longest War” co-authored an article that says security veteran experts. They write:

“One thing has become abundantly clear: America’s “thank you for your service” culture doesn’t help veterans — or society Our country’s military is continually misused, and no amount of pyrotechnics, flag-waving, priority airline boarding, discount nachos, bumper stickers or military flyovers can fix that.

It is important to remember that the original Veteran’s Day was about the end of WWI. It was a mourning for the losses of war and about praying for continued peace. In 1953, a republican congress changed the name to “Veteran’s Day” and the emphasis moved from one on peace to one that “celebrates” those who join the armed forces, much like Mother’s Day went from protesting war to celebrating mothers.

In 2000, my article in the SF Chronicle entitled “Small Clause in NCLB is a Killer” that received a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for “Distinguished Criticism,” I describe how while living on the Pine Ridge reservation, Marine recruiters in schools persuaded many Lakota boys and girls to join. A number of them went AWOL when the military refused to let them return home for sacred ceremonies as promised or when they learned that they were lied to about the designated war being about the protection of their homeland. They went from patriots to criminals and some were incarcerated.  American Indians serve in the armed forces in more significant numbers than any ethnic group because they believe in protecting our land. However, most wars have little to do with this concern. General Smedley Butler, a Marine Corps Commandant and the only military person to receive two Congressional Medals of Honors in separate actions, wrote War is a Racket to show how corporate profit is the truer goal.

 WILLIAM E. STAFFORD

This is the field where the battle did not happen,

where the unknown soldier did not die.

This is the field where grass joined hands,

where no monument stands,

and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,

unfolding their wings across the open.

No people killed—or were killed—on this ground

hallowed by neglect and an air so tame

that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.


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