The Thinker: Rich Galen


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The War to End All ...

Rich Galen

Monday November 12, 2018

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  • Veterans Day used to be called Armistice Day. It celebrated the end of World War I which used to be called "The Great War," until (a) someone decided that 20 million deaths (about evenly split between military and civilians wasn't even good, much less "Great," and (b) as we've noted before, until World War II we didn't know we were going to have to assign World Wars a number to keep track.

  • The "Armistice" in Armistice Day specifically pointed to 11 AM on November 11, 1918 when the final shots were to be fired in "The War to End All Wars" (also not true).

  • President Dwight Eisenhower, who knew a little something about World Wars, changed the name of Armistice Day to Veterans Day to mark those Americans who had served in both.

  • According to, "of the 16 million Americans who served during World War II, about 558,000 are still alive."

  • The last living veteran of World War I was, according to Wikipedia, "Florence Green, a British citizen who served in the Allied armed forces, and who died 4 February 2012, aged 110."

  • The last living American veteran of WWI was Frank Buckles who, according to "enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917 at the age of 16 and drove ambulances and motorcycles near the front lines in Europe. Cpl. Buckle died in 2011." He, too, was 110 years old.

  • I know a good number of men who served in Vietnam. I was not one of them. My Army National Guard units first in New Jersey, then in Ohio were not - as we said back in those days - called up. Now, we would say they weren't deployed.

  • Again, as we've discussed before, I felt going to Iraq in 2003-2004 was a partial - partial repayment of what was then a 35-year-old debt I owed to the nation.

  • On behalf of all of those who did serve in Vietnam, I sent this Veterans Day email to one of my favorite veterans, Gov. Tom Ridge. I saw I had finished writing the email just before 11 AM Eastern (I know the Armistice was Paris time, but I'm not in Paris) and, so, I hit the SEND key at precisely 11 AM.

  • From: Rich Galen
    Sent: Sunday, November 11, 2018 11:00 AM
    To: Tom Ridge

    One of the issues with being a war hero is: You can't be one if you haven't been in a war.

    You have, and you are.

    I have had the honor of knowing a number of military veterans. I've had the higher honor of knowing a smaller number of war heroes. A smaller number, yet, of American heroes.

    You are first among those.

    Your shooting war was Vietnam. But, as heroic as you were during that kinetic conflict it is the course of your life after you turned in your E-6 stripes: Congress. Governor. DHS Secretary.

    More even than those, you have shown courage, resolve, and a dedication to family, friends, staff and millions of people you have never met that qualify you as not just a war hero, but an American hero.

    I have had the privilege of being around you, working with you; watching and admiring your compassion and true feelings for others.

    I have said many times, going to a baseball game with you does not include many discussions with you because of the constant stream of people who want to shake your hand and have a photo taken with you to "send to their dad."

    Time goes on.

    As I type this my watch is, in fact, ticking toward the 11th hour of the 11th month of the 11th day.

    I want, in this moment, to thank you, Tom Ridge, for being a true hero.


  • There have been too many wars, and far too many deployments since VE Day (the 8th of May, 1945) and VJ Day (September 2, 1945) so, there are a lot of veterans to thank.

  • If you don't see a veteran, you probably know the mom, dad, sibling or spouse of one. They sacrificed, too.

  • If you do see a veteran, just say "Thank you," and shake their hand.

  • It will make both of you feel great.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the history of Veterans/Armistice day, to the end of WWII, and to Frank Buckles.

    A rare topic-appropriate Mullfoto is of the sun rising over Tigris River in Tikrit, Iraq in late 2004.

    -- END --

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