What historic moments do you celebrate?

Dan Petegorsky

There’s been a lot of reminiscing this morning about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which has become a symbol of “people power” and liberation. I’ve got a chunk of the wall at home, which a colleague who was in Germany at the time brought back for me; I managed to find it in my basement a few weeks ago after having misplaced it a while back.

It got me thinking about other landmark events I’ve witnessed like this in my lifetime. In 1974 I was in Greece at the time the junta fell, and it was quite a remarkable moment. I was in a café in Crete waiting out the war over Cyprus when news came that the Colonels had capitulated.

Just after the news was broadcast I heard a very loud sound of glass smashing above the plaza. A man was standing on his balcony, using a broomstick to smash one of the ubiquitous “Long Live the Army!” posters that were all over the country. The whole plaza erupted in cheering and celebration.

What were similar moments of liberation you’ve witnessed?

Comments

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    As a student of the two world wars I believe it is very unfortunate that Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day. On November 11th people should give some thought to the human tragedy of the First World War instead of being amused by Veterans Day parades that frequently have little to do with thinking about veterans of wars and their sacrifices after the honor guard passes by.

    In May and August on the anniversaries of V-E (Europe) Day and V-J (Japan) Day we should take time to think of the next generation of men and women who made similar, if slightly less horrific, sacrifices during World War II.

    It would probably be overload, but it seems another day in May should be set aside to think about the Vietnam "War" on the anniversary of its ending.

    Unfortunately, Americans in general are not particularly interested in history and learning lessons from it. If we were we might be less inclined to indulge our continual proclivity for wars.

    Then there would be the problem of sales at the malls. Somehow or other Armistice Day, V-E, V-J and Vietnam War Day sales might not have the same appeal as Veterans Day sales.

  • The Skald (unverified)
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    I was the child of an American serviceman on a "secret" base in Morocco, Africa. I witnessed the frightening coups attempts in 1971 and 1972. I remember being at Kenitra's open air theater watching a movie - the stadium lights came on, three armed jeeps, a few trucks of Moroccan soldiers showed up and a couple hundred people were ordered at gun point to return to their quarters. The first coups d'etat happened in the capital city of Rabat, the second in the air above Rabat as several F-4's from the Kenitra Airbase attempted to shoot down the King's plane. I was thirteen and fourteen years old - it was the first time I'd witnessed a person shot with very little provocation. An indiscreet remark somewhere lead to King Hassan II sending the Americans home under pressure from other Arab states. It's a memory with long tentacles, and yet, my memories of Morocco are mostly wonderful - I made many Moroccan friends - as only rowdy teens can do. As an adult serving in Iraq, I can remember being terrified that I might see one of my friends over the barrel of my MP5. Geopolitics at thirteen. Long tentacles.

  • (Show?)

    April 15th. not because of taxes: it's the day Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers and African-Americans finally returned to the major leagues. in 1947, the United States was still a Jim Crow nation. this war before Brown. before Truman integrated the military. the Dodgers put a black man on the field with white men, put him in a position of complete equality, and it worked. when Pee Wee Reese, in the middle of the field in Cincinnati, casually put his arm over Robinson's shoulder and showed that a white man from Kentucky had accepted a black man from California as his equal, the game was over.

    it's an easy day to remember, April 15th. but as a Dodger fan, and as an American who believes fully in equality (it's not something we give; it's what we all have; we just need to match our laws with that reality), i always note Jackie Robinson Day. April 15, 1947: it changed the country forever.

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    What historic moments do you celebrate?

    The date of my birth is respected as a sacred date by People of Quality.

  • Robert Collins (unverified)
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    Not celebrate exactly, but the big historic events where I can recall where I was, etc:

    Columbus Day Storm Cuban Missile Crisis Announcement Kennedy Assasination Johnson announcing the Gulf of Tonkin Moon Landing Kissinger announcing Vietnam armistice Mayaguez Mt. St Helens Challenger Disaster 9-1-1

  • Jason (unverified)
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    Bill,

    I think you make some good points; however, I will offer a different viewpoint on Veteran's day.

    My grandfather served in Germany during WWII and in Korea, and my dad in Vietnam. Veteran's day is important to me because it reminds me - and all those out there - of the important sacrifices my dad and grandfather made. I'll be calling my dad to thank him for his service and tell him that I love him.

    As for my grandfather, he died two-years ago, so I hang an American flag from my house to honor him.

    Maybe our country should've come up with a different day to honor all veterans, but it still provides an important moment to thank those who served, and to honor and remember their sacrifices; and it provides important opportunities for parents like me to explain to their children what it means to be a veteran.

    I had the honor of officiating my grandfather's funeral, which included a gun salute and the presentation of the American flag to my grandmother. I have a much deeper and more profound respect for those who serve in our military, so I think Veteran's Day is important.

  • Gus Frederick (unverified)
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    June 30, 1908: Hundreds of square miles of Siberian tundra leveled by a blast greater that 200 Hiroshima A-Bombs.

    October 4, 1957: Birth of the space age, and the hope of being able to deal with similar events as the 1908 one.

  • jamie2 (unverified)
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    I always recall, if not celebrate, three dates:

    June 5, 1981: AIDS officially declared an epidemic by the US Center for Disease Control

    January 26, 1983: National Institutes of Health begins AIDS research

    October 22, 1985: Congress begins to take action and allocates funds for a not yet defined comprehensive national public education campaign at Heath and Human Services intended to slow the epidemic. Total budgeted for the national annual effort: $120,000.

    (During this span of years tens of thousands of people died of AIDS in the US.)

  • (Show?)

    Bill - I also have to disagree with you on Veteran's Day. Your comment itself illustrates my concern - which is that too much focus would be (and is already) placed on the World Wars. You state that having a day to remember Vietnam might be overload, and you don't even mention Korea. Plus, what about all of the other armed conflicts in American history (or even the ones we are currently fighting)? Many of these wars don't have the "glamour" of WWII, but that doesn't mean the sacrifices that veterans made in those conflicts are any less deserving of our attention. Also, there are many more military veterans who never served in combat who still deserve recognition, "veteran" doesn't necessitate combat even though that seems to be the popular usage.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "Maybe our country should've come up with a different day to honor all veterans, but it still provides an important moment to thank those who served, and to honor and remember their sacrifices; and it provides important opportunities for parents like me to explain to their children what it means to be a veteran."

    Jason: I appreciate your point. If everyone thought on Veterans Day as you do, I wouldn't have a problem with it, but you, unfortunately, appear to be in a minority. Given the lives lost and damaged in the last eight years, that minority is probably enlarging. Still, not enough actually give any of these wars serious thought. Others who claim to think about previous wars seem to dwell on many of the myths that have developed over the years.

    "I also have to disagree with you on Veteran's Day. Your comment itself illustrates my concern - which is that too much focus would be (and is already) placed on the World Wars."

    I have to disagree with you on this, Nick. The First World War was among the greatest tragedies in Western History. Beyond the millions of lives lost there were the historic failures in June 1919 and later to set the stage for a lasting peace. Instead, the stage was set for World War II that cost tens of millions of people their lives and created countless refugees.

    "You state that having a day to remember Vietnam might be overload, and you don't even mention Korea. Plus, what about all of the other armed conflicts in American history (or even the ones we are currently fighting)?"

    Nick: If I had continued with all the other possibilities - Central America, Haiti, the Spanish-American, Mexican-American, Native American, etc. - I would probably have been accused of writing an anti-American diatribe and advocating a war-of-the-month program. Then there were the proxy wars in Chile, Central America, Indonesia, etc. that someone else could have noted I omitted.

    My basic point is that we should have a day or days organized to give some serious thought to the wars we have been involved in with the hope that people can learn something and make them less willing to be drummed into future wars. Instead of parades that do little, if anything, to encourage contemplation of war and the people engaged in them, would we not be better to have meetings in halls where discussions could take place to improve public knowledge?

  • BOHICA (unverified)
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    I share Bill's concern re: Veterans Day. November 11th has been changed for a day of peace to one that has unfortunately become overly militarized.

    On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, it became “All quiet on the western front.” An armistice signed at six o’clock that morning took effect and brought a cease-fire to the “War to end all wars.” Since that fateful hour, most nations, which fought in that conflict, observe Armistice Day. The United States in 1938 made it official with a proclamation that states in part: “…it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and…inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.”

    Unfortunately the horrors of World War One were to be outdone by those of World War Two and to honor the sacrifices of the veterans who fought in it and the Korean War, Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. Previous proclamations by Presidents Wilson (1919) and Coolidge (1926) did recognize the sacrifice of those who fought and died in WWI. While it is fitting and proper to honor all veterans for their service, the original intent of November eleventh has become lost to the militarization and commercialization of this important date.

    With flags flying and bands playing, veterans from all eras march in parades. Dignitaries give glowing speeches glorifying the heroism of those who had the misfortune to end up in combat. Fighter jets streak above the gathered crowds, cannons roar, taps played and shopping malls offer special sales on merchandise more than likely made in third world countries. So one day a year we remember those men and women who put on the uniform and took the oath. The rest of the year it is business as usual. We pass by the homeless vet with the cardboard sign. We allowed our elected representatives to gut the Veterans Administration.

    This is nothing new. Throughout the history of the United States, veterans have been treated abysmally until WWII veterans were granted the first G.I. bill. When that bill expired, the new G.I. bills which followed, were mere shadows of the original and again established the perception, if not the fact, that veterans could be thrown a bone and be happy. While America enjoyed the economic benefits of the 50s and 60s, veterans who had been exposed to atomic bomb tests, used as lab rats in experiments of the effects of different chemicals and drugs at the Army's Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland and exposed to Agent Orange and other chemicals in Vietnam were denied claims or simply ignored by the government, the public and the Veterans Administration. This pattern was continued as veterans of Desert Storm started displaying disturbing aliments after they returned from the war. They too were dismissed until years later Gulf War Syndrome was recognized as a real malady.

    The military casualties of war are the price paid by those who are called to engage in its “obscenity of violence” and their families. And as history has shown, one day a year is adequate to remember their service.

    Now we have the returning veterans from the wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been numerous reports of the way the returning veterans have been treated and there is no need to rehash every scandal and misstep perpetrated on these men and women except to say that while shocking, it was not unexpected if history is our guide.

    While there have been individuals and many ad hoc organizations set up to try and help these service men and women and the general public reads or hears a heartwarming story about a vet overcoming his or her disability, we soon forget as we are distracted by the next celebrity divorce, death or DUI endlessly repeated on what is called “news”.

    There are many differing opinions on what a “just war” is and whether the two we are engaged in qualify. There should be no difference of opinion on how to recognize and compensate those who answered the call.

    Back on topic.

    I'm 61 so I remember events from Sputnik to the present. Two slightly different ones that I just thought of were the ad campaigns, “You Meet the Nicest People on a Honda” and the VW Bug ads from the early sixties. Changed the American out look on personal transportation.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)
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    "With flags flying and bands playing, veterans from all eras march in parades. Dignitaries give glowing speeches glorifying the heroism of those who had the misfortune to end up in combat. Fighter jets streak above the gathered crowds, cannons roar, taps played and shopping malls offer special sales on merchandise more than likely made in third world countries. So one day a year we remember those men and women who put on the uniform and took the oath. The rest of the year it is business as usual. We pass by the homeless vet with the cardboard sign. We allowed our elected representatives to gut the Veterans Administration."

    A few weeks ago in Bend there was concern that there would not be enough funding to stage the Veterans Day parade. A young woman rose to the occasion and initiated a successful drive to acquire the necessary three thousand dollars. It is only right to give credit to the people who rose to this occasion to make possible something they believed in. On the other hand there is a small colony of homeless and troubled veterans that Central Oregon Veterans Outreach is trying to help. At the risk creating a cloud over the parade I feel those three thousand dollars could have been put to better use.

    As for the rest of your article, BOHICA, I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you.

  • Joe Hill (unverified)
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    Here are some days to celebrate coming up.

    Nov. 11 Haymarket Martyrs executed; Nat Turner hanged

    Nov. 12 Seymour Hersh breaks the My Lai story

    Nov. 14 Aaron Copland born (the gay New York Jew who studied in Paris and made us all want to be cowboys . . . only in America!)

    Nov. 16 massacre of Jesuits at Jose Simeon Canas University, 1989

    Nov. 17 Nixon's "I am not a crook" . . . those were the days!

    Nov. 19 Gettysburg Address 1863 and Joe Hill (the real one) executed 1915 (I was framed, by the way)

    Nov. 21 Columbine Mine Massacre, an IWW strike, 1927 (and of course, happy birthday Voltaire!)

    I don't think we have to remind anyone of Nov. 22, 1963

    Nov. 24 Darwin published On the Origin of Species (this should be a holiday for the whole world, all species!)

    Nov. 28 Friedrich Engels born 1820 (read the Communist Manifesto and say: Next Year in Jerusalem!)

    Nov. 29 is the Sand Creek Massacre

    and Nov. 30 is the birthday of the estimable Mark Twain who came in with a comet and went out with one too.

    You should always have something to toast, every day, my sainted grandmother told us children.

    solidarity!

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    December 19 - International Rebel Dog Day

    (You wondered why the House met on a Saturday and impeached Clinton?)

  • Dan w. (unverified)
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    April 14th - Lincoln Assassination July 2nd - Garfield Assassination Sept. 6th - McKinley Assassination Feb 22nd - Attempted Assassination of Nixon March 30th - Regan Shooting

    August 13th - Fidel Castro's Birthday! July 28th - Hugo Chavez Birthday! May 5th - Karl Marx Birthday!

  • Lord Beaverbrook (unverified)
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    You tell me what you were celebrating 10 years ago today . Proof even when Dems get it right, they still piss it away!

    That's the charitable interpretation.

  • (Show?)

    It's not the one I'm celebrating, but the ones I'm looking forward to being here in Korea. There are two:

    1) I know it sounds creepy to hope for the death of someone, but the day Kim Jong Ill dies.

    <h2>2) The day the two Koreas reunite</h2>

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