Classical music to end all wars

Ralph Vaughn Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams by Hoppé-1921
Ralph Vaughan Williams by Hoppé-1921

From a Zoom discussion meeting of the choir folk on a recent Thursday night, I discovered that quite a bit of classical music was written to commemorate the Great World War.

I knew about a number of pop tunes for “the war to end  all wars.” It’s A Long, Long Way to Tipperary; I Didn’t Raise My Son to Be A Soldier; Keep the Home Fires Burning; and of course, Over There, were all #1 charters in the United States. The latter was a #1 hit by three different artists in a row, American Quartet, Peerless Quartet, and Nora Bayes in the fourth quarter of 1917.

Here are nine classical compositions, with music links. I was familiar with Britten’s War Requiem. I have a recording of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, but I did not know of its WWI connection. Perhaps I should have. “In the opening section of the suite, ‘Mars, The Bringer of War,’ there’s a truly visceral sense of horror; what must have seemed like the end of the world to those who experienced The Great War.”

Ralph, pronounced Raif

This article from the British Library notes the number of young composers killed in the conflict. One noted composer who physically survived the conflict was  Ralph Vaughn Williams (12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958).

“He enlisted as a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps… on New Year’s Eve 1914. At 42 he was old enough to have been excused service, but the medical corps were often chosen by older… men who wanted to serve.

“Maurice Ravel, who had tutored Vaughan Williams in orchestration in 1907-8 also became an ambulance driver. Becoming a medical orderly was not an easy posting, however.

Many of Vaughan Williams’ friends died. “Ralph wrote to Holst in 1916 about the loss of his contemporaries and his fear of returning to civilian life. ‘I sometimes dread coming back to normal life with so many gaps…out of those 7 who joined up together in August 1914 only 3 are left.'”

Listen:

Symphony No. 3, “A Pastoral Symphony” (June 1921) Haitink conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Dona Nobis Pacem cantata (1936) London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Conductor: Richard Hickox – Soloists: Bryn Terfel (baritone), Yvonne Kenny (soprano), Philip Langridge (tenor)

Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans

861 – Surgical Technician

Henry Flipper
Henry Flipper battled prejudice in the military
In the legitimate complaints about veterans coming home and not getting their due, I have come across a particularly ugly reminder from the Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in America: Targeting Black Veterans

“The end of the Civil War marked a new era of racial terror and violence directed at black people in the United States that has not been adequately acknowledged or addressed in this country… The violent response to freedom for former slaves was followed by decades of racial terror lynchings and targeted violence designed to sustain white supremacy and racial hierarchy.”

The more than 40,000 black soldiers who died in the Civil War fought to protect a Union that rejected them in the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott ruling of 1857.

“No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service…”

The great equalizer?

“Military service sparked dreams of racial equality for generations of African Americans. But most black veterans were not welcomed home and honored for their service. Instead, during the lynching era, many black veterans were targeted for mistreatment, violence, and murder because of their race and status as veterans. Indeed, black veterans risked violence simply by wearing their uniforms on American soil.”

Particularly egregious was the Red Summer of 1919, right after WWI. “In Pittsburgh for example, the Ku Klux Klan made their goal of using violence clear with notices that read: ‘The war is over, negroes. Stay in your place. If you don’t, we’ll put you there.'”

Dear old dad

I’ve written before about my father’s complicated feelings about the military, I suspect due in part to his knowledge of history. In the European theater at the close of World War II, he was “861 – Surgical Technician”

“Performs various duties to assist medical officers in rendering surgical treatment. Prepares operating room and surgical equipment for use; assists operating personnel; administers hypodermic injections as instructed; cleans operating room and sterilizes equipment; assists in transporting patients from wards to operating room; sterilizes linens and instruments; performs duties during operation that cannot be done by operating personnel; gives first aid treatment; instructs others in simple surgical duties. Should be at least a high school graduate.”

This seems to have been applicable to him: How the GI Bill’s Promise Was Denied to a Million Black WWII Veterans, “The sweeping bill promised prosperity to veterans. So why didn’t black Americans benefit?”

Our current sin

We Deport Veterans: “For decades, we’ve deported military veterans—legal residents of the United States—while dangling citizenship before them. Congressional Hispanic Caucus estimates there are about 3,000 instances of veterans being deported to other countries.

“We also know that tens of thousands of immigrants serve in the U.S. military. According to Department of Defense statistics, about 70,000 non-citizen people born outside of the United States were serving in the military between 1999 and 2008.

“According to a 2017 report from the National Immigration Forum, about 40,000 immigrants currently serve in the armed forces and about 5,000 non-citizens enlist each year. Furthermore, as of 2016, about 511,000 veterans were foreign-born. And more than 20 percent of Medal of Honor recipients are immigrants to the United States.

“Those immigrants who can enlist in the U.S. military are often promised fast-tracked access to a green card. In reality, however, most of these vets neither apply for nor attain citizenship. Many of these enlisted immigrants will tell you they were promised citizenship by recruiters or that their paperwork has at least been initiated. Many even believe they attained citizenship simply by enlisting and swearing to defend the United States.

“So why doesn’t the U.S. military ensure that immigrants are presented with accurate facts on the possibility of their path to citizenship? Where’s the support system developed to ensure they complete each step when it’s available to them?”

100th anniversary: end of the Great World War

It’s a tricky thing to recognize the valor of a soldier in combat, even when one opposes the actual incursion.

http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cai.2a11702
This is the big one: the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great World War, the war to end all wars, which has not worked out nearly as well as we would have liked.

I read this spring: The 3.3 million veterans who have served since September 11, 2001, “now are roughly half the size of the largest living veteran population: Those who served in the Vietnam era.”

While I knew this intellectually, it pained me to see: “As this year marks the 15th and 17th anniversaries of the onset of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…” This means that every 16-year-old born in the United States has ALWAYS lived with war, just as every 18-year-old has lived post-Columbine, the Colorado mass shooting.

Or more correctly, warlike conflicts, since the US doesn’t usually bother with such formalities involving Congress declaring war anymore. Because of the voluntary nature of the military, it is not always obvious on the home front that we’re at war, or in conflict, or whatever we call it. No war bonds or victory gardens.

And it’s a tricky thing to recognize the valor of a soldier in combat, even when one opposes the actual incursion. My long-held opposition to the wars in Vietnam and Iraq have led to some to label me in the past as unpatriotic, not “supporting our troops.” To which I said some version of “I support their right to come home in one piece.”

I’ve never understood how a bumper sticker actually translated into helping those who served in the military. Whereas helping homeless veterans, or helping those with the physical and psychological scars of battle are noble callings.

More Census stats:

“Veterans who have served since 9/11 are more diverse

“About 17 percent are women, 15.3 percent are black, and 12.1 percent are Hispanic. Almost half (47.6 percent) are still under the age of 35.

“They are an educated group. More than 46 percent have some college education and 32 percent have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2016, about 612,000 post-9/11 veterans were in college.”

Thank you for your service?

Dr. Sherman describes ‘thank you for your service’ as a ‘token of gratitude or something that is meant to break the ice, although it often doesn’t accomplish that goal.’

“Thank you for your service,” says golf pro Michael Allen to Major William McGarry, Bioenvironmental Equipment Engineer, 944th Aeromedical Staging Squadron during the last day of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., Saturday. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Meredith Mingledorff)

The family was listening, again, to the original cast album for the Broadway sensation Hamilton, when this dialogue from the song Helpless came on:
[ELIZA]
Thank you for all your service
[HAMILTON]
If it takes fighting a war for us to meet, it will have been worth it

And I laughed. The Wife wondered why, and I said that “Thank you for your service” is such a 21st century trope, used there as a deliberate anachronism. And by trope, I mean “a common or overused theme or device.”

This got me to wondering how vets feel about it. In Why Saying “Thank You for Your Service” Offends Some Veterans, James Kelly wrote: “As active-duty USMC, I have to admit that when people thank me for my service, I feel awkward and a little uncomfortable. But why? Where do veterans’ uneasiness come from?

“The first issue is that literally everyone says it. In fact, it is said so much that it has become, to many vets, an empty platitude, something you just say because it is politically correct.

“Some veterans believe that saying ‘thank you for your service’ is almost a way for civilians to massage away some of the guilt at not participating themselves.”

Rich (only name given), suggests “Thank You for Your Service” Can Actually Do More Harm Than Good.

“In her book Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers (2015), Dr. Nancy Sherman discusses this conflicted relationship veterans have with the phrase and the people who casually offer it. As University Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University and the Inaugural Distinguished Chair of Ethics at the United States Naval Academy, she is a philosopher who lectures worldwide on moral injury and military ethics.

“Dr. Sherman relates this to a greater problem that she describes as the ‘gaping disconnect between those who wear the uniform and those who don’t.’ She describes thank you for your service as a ‘token of gratitude or something that is meant to break the ice, although it often doesn’t accomplish that goal.’ Instead, it can at times come across as ‘glib,’ or just a ‘one-stop remark [a person] can dispense with’ to avoid any meaningful communication.”

See also Please Don’t Thank Me for My Service.

So what should you do instead?

The first article notes:

“When I asked veterans how civilians should thank them for their service, one answer proved to be the most common: ‘VOTE!’ Volunteer in your community, try and make a difference, and vote for what you believe is right. Honor the actions of veterans by ensuring that your voice is heard at the ballot box. Educate yourself on veterans’ issues. There are a number of fantastic organizations that help veterans with real issues but the most impactful is to use your right to make your voice heard.”

The second:

“If you want to thank a veteran, be considerate, be genuine, and be willing to listen or have a conversation. Dr. Sherman suggests simple alternatives that may actually contribute to repairing the military-civilian gap. If the service member appears to be willing and able to talk with you, you should invite a respectful conversation.

“‘I am grateful for your service. Where were you deployed? What was it like?’

“You might also ask: How is your transition back home so far? What is/was your job in the military? How is your family doing with your service? What do you want to do now that you’re back?”

I must say that I would personally be very uncomfortable with doing this latter thing, for reasons stated in the article. “It’s also true that many [vets] do have physical and emotional scars or moral wounds as a result of their service and are dealing (or not) with lingering feelings of guilt, shame, or helplessness, among others.”

So I’ll probably do what I’ve been doing all along, which is giving the knowing head nod, hoping that’s it’s adequate, at least for the moment.

Charities for Veterans and Military Organizations

“CharityWatch believes it is reasonable for a charity to set aside less than three year’s worth its annual budget for financial stability and possible future needs.”

disabledveteranI was reading this article in CharityWatch, Multiple Names + Exaggerated Programs = Two Related Charities, But Little Help for Vets or Cancer Relief. Ticked me off.

“Help the Vets (HTV) and Breast Cancer Outreach Foundation (BCOF) are two relatively new charities that share the same address and phone number, as well as the same family members in leadership positions, including the president. But of more concern to donors should be another shared trait between HTV and BCOF — the likelihood that most donations will go towards paying for-profit, professional fundraisers rather than for helping veterans or cancer sufferers.”

I found these grades of charities for veterans and military organizations in the Winter 2016/2017 Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report, so they theoretically have changed since then, though unlikely. The entities noted with a ? means that CharityWatch did not have enough information. Perhaps some are less than three years old.

“CharityWatch believes it is reasonable for a charity to set aside less than three year’s worth of its annual budget for financial stability and possible future needs. When a charity’s available assets in reserve exceed three year’s worth of its annual budget, CharityWatch downgrades its final letter grade rating. However, we continue to show what a charity’s efficiency rating was prior to being downgraded for those donors who do not wish to factor a charity’s high assets into their giving decisions.” (Those graded thus have two grades and a dollar sign.)

The listings in italics have a grade of B+ or better and therefore are ranked among the top-rated charities.

AdoptAPlatoon Soldier Support Effort: ?
Air Force Aid Society: A/F $
American Legion National Headquarters: D
American Studies Center: ?
AMVETS National Headquarters: D
AMVETS National Service Foundation: F
Armed Services YMCA of the USA: A
Army Emergency Relief: A+/F $

Blinded Veterans Association: D
Bob Woodruff Family Foundation: A-

Center for American Homeless Veterans: F
Circle of Friends for American Veterans: F
Coalition to Salute America’s Heroes: F

Disabled American Veterans: D
Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust: ?
Disabled Veterans National Foundation: F
Disabled Veterans Services: F

Feed Our Veterans: F
Fisher House Foundation B+
Foundation for American Veterans: F
Freedom Alliance: C-/D $

Gary Sinise Foundation: A
Good Charity: ?
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind: A

Healing Heroes Network: F
Help Hospitalized Veterans: F
Help Our Wounded: F
Help the Vets: F
Homes for Our Troops: A

Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund: A
Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America: A-

Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation: B-
Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation: F
Mission Continues: A
National Military Family Association: A

National Veterans Foundation: ?
National Veterans Services Fund: F
National Vietnam Veterans Foundation (DISSOLVED): F
Navy SEAL Foundation: A+/C+ $
Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society: A

Operation Homefront: A

Paralyzed Veterans of America: F
Paws for Purple Hearts: F

Semper Fi Fund: A+
Soldiers’ Angels: B
Special Operations Warrior Foundation: A/F $

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors: B+
TREA Memorial Foundation: ?
Troops Need You: F

United American Patriots: F
United Service Organizations: C
United Spinal Association: C-
United States Armed Forces Association: F
United States Navy Memorial Foundation: D

Veterans Assistance Foundation: C-
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and Foundation: F
Veterans of the Vietnam War & The Veterans Coalition: ?
Veterans Support Organization: F
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund: D
Vietnam Veterans of America: F
VietNow National Headquarters: F

Wounded Warrior Project: C
Wounded Warriors Family Support: A

About a fifth of these received a B+ or better. Over a third received an F.