I’m watching old movies again.
With the release of the new movie about the Battle of Midway I decided to pop in my VHS copy of the Henry Fonda-Charlton Heston version that came out in 1976. And before you chide me for being what Millenials call old school, those tapes look pretty good on my modern 32-inch flat-screen.
Speaking of old movies about World War II, I confess an affinity for the ones that were made during the war and shortly afterward. Those were all made before my time, but they appeal to my fascination with history; the movies and culture that my parents experienced.
If you want a dose of patriotism and see how Hollywood was supporting our troops overseas, check out movies like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Watch On The Rhine, Gung Ho, Hollywood Canteen, Action in the North Atlantic and Air Force. And that’s just the tip of the cinematic iceberg.
A favorite for me in the flag-waving propaganda genre is the 1942 movie Private Buckaroo, with Harry James, the Andrews Sisters, and pre-Stooge Shemp Howard. A comedy, it was made to boost the morale of Americans, especially those lining up to enlist, coming out just a few months after Pearl Harbor.
Granted, some of the songs and dialogue in those films may be cringe-worthy to most people today, but trying to judge a movie some 70-odd years later, using today’s inoffensive correctness as an assessment is like trying to compare a B-17 with the space shuttle. It’s the way it was, and I doubt if those attitudes will ever change.
Moving on, if there’s one thing you can say about Socorro, it’s that we love to talk. A short “hello, how are you?” can easily turn into a 20-minute catching-up conversation. This socialization is, I think, one way we remain what you can call a close-knit community. It’s all about making time for each other.
A place I do frequent socializing turnouts to be in a grocery store. It always happens when I’m on a mission for an item, determined to find a can of chicken broth or a head of broccoli, and I’m focused on scanning the shelves. Suddenly an acquaintance shows up and we say hello, but I’ve still got finding that dang can of broth or whatever on my mind. As the conversation starts up I keep darting an eye to the shelf, as if finding it can’t wait another second.
Anyway, the other day I ran into a fellow vet, and we got to talking about Veterans Day. It’s coming up Monday, and an observance will be held at Isidro Baca Park between the pyramid and the Vietnam monument.
On the pyramid is a brass plaque with the names of the six young people from Socorro who died in Vietnam. Across the way, on the monument are the names of the New Mexicans who were killed in action, missing in action or taken as prisoners of war in Vietnam. All 399 names – from Delbert Abeyta to Juan Zamora - are engraved in the four polished marble slabs, much like a smaller version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
In the end, there’s one thing they all share, and that’s the sacrifice they made for the rest of us.
A legal holiday since 1938, celebrating Veterans Day - originally Armistice Day - is not unique to the U.S.; they do it across the Atlantic as well.
Incidentally, I was quite touched while listening to an interview on KANW a few months ago with Elton John. He was lamenting the fact that veterans are often not remembered.
“I get very moved when it's Armistice Day in England, which is November 11 - Veteran's Day in America - or anytime you see someone who's fought in a war, marching to remember the ones that have fallen,” John told the interviewer.
He was referring to a song he recorded - Oceans Away - that his songwriting partner Bernie Taupin wrote about his father, who fought in World War II.
“They should never be forgotten. They should always be remembered,” John said. “I'm a great believer in the old being very wise, and sometimes, they get treated very badly, and we discard them too readily. They must not be discarded or forgotten.”
He added that his mother fought in the war.
“My dad didn't, but my mum did, she was a gunner, an ack-ack girl, in the Second World War. And they fought so that I wouldn't have to,” John said. “And this song is about paying tribute to what they did. And let's not ever forget them. Let's never forget these people and the countless people that died - millions who died on our behalf in World War I, World War II and subsequent wars after that.”
As tradition dictates, Veterans Day ceremonies are at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in observance of the end of World War I when Germany agreed to an armistice with the allied nations. Nowadays it serves to recognize all U.S. military veterans.