Stashed away at San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery lies the graves of some 140 Axis Prisoners of War. Entombed here are soldiers who died for Germany, Italy, and Japan while in American captivity during the Second World War. Two of the German soldiers here received high honors, and so, swastikas in iron crosses emblazon their tombstones. These markers bear the words: “He [who lies here] died far from his home for the Führer, people, and fatherland.” May we too remember these men on this Veterans Day.
Politics behind a war should not reflect on the soldiers fighting it. Soldiers are merely the pawns fighting battles for corporate and government interests beyond anyone’s comprehension. The aforementioned men were just as brave and courageous as their American counterparts. They simply had the misfortune of losing the war. Veterans Day is as much about them as any.
Though World War II is widely considered the “necessary war,” paleoconservative icon Pat Buchanan’s 2009 book Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War” counters this view. Buchanan describes the Second World War as unnecessary a fight as the recent regrettable conflicts in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. American veterans of one war do not receive higher admiration than the American veterans of another. The battlefield does not matter. Why then should the side?
If the point of Veterans Day is to honor those who sacrifice their lives to fight for their homeland, then it should honor all of those who fought, particularly those who died “far from home.”
Today, as we honor American veterans, we should also remember the others who fought. They too fought for what they thought a higher purpose, or perhaps too fought because of economic or personal shortcomings. Regardless, the hellish experience faced fighting someone else’s battle is the reason we celebrate these men on Veterans Day. They had to sacrifice so much for so little. Veterans of every stripe deserve our respect rather than any consternation.
As much as we hate war, we must respect and care for the soldiers who fight it; even those who fought on the other side.