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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veteran's Day Salute

If you didn't know, today is Veteran's Day, the day we honor American men and women who have served in the U.S. military.

I want to offer kudos to all the brave troops, active and reserve, enlisted and commissioned, volunteer and former draftees, current and retired or deceased.

I want to thank my dad for his 21-plus years of active duty service in the U.S. Navy. Kudos to you CPO (ret.) James H. Burnett Jr.

I want to thank my late grandfather James H. Burnett Sr., a Purple Heart recipient, for his service in the U.S. Army in World War II.

I want to thank all of yous, as my good friends in parts of NYC would say, for being willing to lay down your lives in service to your country. And if you have any doubts about that willingness, keep in mind that our military today is all volunteer.

And on an even more personal level I want to thank the few living members of the Tuskegee Airmen, that legendary group of African American aviators who volunteered for military service during World War II, trained as fighter pilots, and flew dozens of successful missions in that war.

Some of you get squirrelly and uncomfortable when I bring up things even remotely related to race and ethnicity.

Here's a bit of reality: While I am grateful to everyone who has ever served honorably in a branch of the military, I have a special love for the men from Tuskegee, because they didn't just volunteer for service and volunteer for a dangerous job. They did it knowing full well that many powerful lawmakers, military commanders, and even their peers doubted their ability, questioned their patriotism, vocally wished them failure (even though their failure would have been to the detriment of the American war effort), and said in so many words that their service wasn't wanted, at least in such a high profile capacity.

On those rare occasions I thrust race at you, it isn't to cause anyone discomfort. It's to give you some clue to my early motivations and to remind us all that even the most apparently polished history has some fractures. And we should learn from the blemishes, not ignore them.

When you are a kid and you see your own father get up day in and day out and put on his crisply starched uniform and go to work, and on those rare but glorious occasions when you got to accompany him and you saw other men snap to and raise their hands to salute him for his rank and respect, and you knew that a crew like the Tuskegee Airman had existed and thrived, those collective images are enough to convince you the little boy that when you are grown you too can contribute and succeed, regardless of what you look like.

Again, kudos to all, and prayers to those currently in military service.And regardless of where you stand on current events, don't get it twisted. Even if you are unhappy with the war - and I really don't care whether you're for it or again' it - don't be unhappy with the troops. They're just doing their jobs.


  • I had the opportunity to hear some of the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen at a seminar at work earlier this year. Some of their stories of racism, (and some of diversity acceptance as well,) were quite the eye opener. I was glad to have taken part in listening to their stories.

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 9:20 AM  

  • I'm not uncomfortable at all. I'm grateful for all those you mention.

    By Anonymous Freddie, at 2:23 PM  

  • ...and while I have rejected most of my Southern Baptist upbringing, I keep a few idols under the bed. One of them just sprang out unbidden when I read this, so I'll say it and trust you understand my meaning.


    By Blogger wordsonwater, at 2:55 PM  

  • What a wonderful post. God bless everyone you mentioned.

    By Anonymous Kim, at 5:06 PM  

  • a very nice salute :)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:08 AM  

  • That's one heck of a post, you have quite the family history there. What the Tuskegee Airmen did would have been heroic for anyone to do, but considering their circumstances it was divine.

    Happy Veteran's Day to all!

    By Blogger QofD, at 12:37 PM  

  • Thanks all for the good words. My pops and grandfather are/were good guys. And still, prayers to all those currently serving.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:50 PM  

  • That's a great tribute, James; you have a lot to be proud of.

    By Blogger The Dummy, at 8:43 PM  

  • Heck, James, there are days when I am just ashamed to be white!

    Good for them.

    & I hope whites (or whatever the term is these days!) do better this century!

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 7:25 AM  

  • Well said! I agree with you about the troops - I support them, not the Bush administration. They're the ones who are doing all the hard work.

    As for the racial component of your post, you said things as gently as possible, so if anyone's feathers get ruffled, they might ask themselves why they feel so uncomfortable...

    I think that it's a luxury, to be able to ignore racism, and of course that's the easy way to go. But we certainly won't get anywhere doing that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:35 PM  

  • "Heck, James, there are days when I am just ashamed to be white!"

    Yeah. I'm ashamed for you to be white, too. What a moron.

    Nice salute, James.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:59 PM  

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