Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Day With America's War Dead

Did something today that I've wanted to for a very long time -- visit the Arlington National Cemetery just outside Washington D.C., where 300,000 (and counting) veterans and military casualties lie buried. It is an astounding site -- you've seen it in the movies -- of tombstones running off as far as the eye can see down rolling hills over 624 acres. Signboards everywhere remind hundreds of daily visitors that these are "hallowed grounds", and therefore to conduct themselves with "dignity and respect at all times". To say that the site is intense doesn't quite cover it. It also made me really sad, thinking about how differently we honour our war heroes and military casualties in India. I mean, do we even have a national war memorial yet?

Photo by T. Singh

24 comments :

Anonymous said...

Shiv, I too share your feeling when I visited the site in 2004. It made me sad and proud both at the same time. At the time I witnessed at least 3 funeral processions during the couple hours or so that I spent there. I was there in December during a bitter cold spell and I still didn't want to leave. I must admit that this is a weird form of attraction. But it is an eye opening experience.

Chintan said...

You've touched on something that I have been saying for ages to all my friends. After seeing how vets are treated here in the US, it makes you sad indeed for our own war heroes. Especially after Kargil, you'd think things would change drastically.

Anonymous said...

Shiv Aroor, say that again. I have visited the War Memorials in Chennai, Kohima and Imphal, all WW2 or earlier. Nothing else? Why? Why?

Anonymous said...

Come on dude.. In india when a soldier dies he is forgotton immediately.. there family has to run from post to pillar to get support from the ministry... do you expect to get such a honor??..you have to be kidding

Anonymous said...

Chintan, nothing will change in India until and unless the old guards running the government and the opposition are got rid of and young blood infused to revitalise this aging babooodom.

The politicians have effectively shackled the armed forces. So you can bet your last rupee that a military takeover even for a few years to clean up the scumbags is not going to happen.

The baboos are sure of themselves that they do not even care for war veterans and heroes who brought honour and fame to the country.

The baboos are only interested in corruption and milking the country dry under one guise or other.

Anonymous said...

and in india we ferried our martyrs in garbage trucks...

Sagar said...

What about India Gate in New Delhi. Isn't a National War Memorial.

Parmeet said...

coincidentally this is the 2nd time in the day I've come across a picture of this place.
the first one captioned "Cost of War" http://www.treklens.com/gallery/photo201582.htm

Anonymous said...

haha .. no Shiv, we bring our dear brothers in trash trucks.. our "netas" dont give a shit about anyone as long as they get their bribe.

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-06-29/india/29716084_1_policemen-dantewada-coffins

dr. r sinha said...

our national war memorial for the fallen jawans is known as india gate and the amar jawan jyoti....greatest respect for the fallen jawans would be an appropriate help and respect to the bereaved family members and we fail them on this so very often

Anguraj Rajanikanth Balaguru said...

Shiv, You have made a very valid and deeply saddening observation regarding how we treat our own war heroes. You know I myself live in the US. I have seen instances when US citizens, on seeing a uniformed soldier go upto him and say 'Thank You'.This has happened a number of times. We folks have to learn from them, how to show respect to our heroes who do a thankless job and in a much more ferocious and inhospitable terrain. Let me take this as an oppurtunity, to request you and other media representatives to run a campaign in India (which should be persistent and continuous) to show respect to our soldiers and drives a sense of national integration, in our day to day lives. In the middle of so many advertisements for toothpaste and soaps lets dedicate some quality time to honour our soldiers. I urge this to you because you as part of the media are also being looked upon by public as represntatives of the country who have the power to initiate such programs. Let our sense of national pride not be limited to a war, which is the only time we force ourselves to remember/admire our heroes. Thank you for all your good work

Anguraj R. Balaguru

Anonymous said...

Chintan, I agree with you. I think part of the reason is an average middle class or higher Indian does seem interested in joining the Military. And therefore when it comes to thinking of their welfare, not much thought is given. While the economically less fortunate who do join the military, look at the Vets as being no lesser then the rest of them who didn't join the military..... Vets are the ones who are holding the shorter end of the stick. We honor our vets at the time of their funeral but nothing beyond than that. The awards declared for their families sometimes take years if not decades to clear, and that too if they are able to bribe our babus along the way.

I live in a small town a little over 250 years old (Pottstown, PA, USA). By our Town's Library, there is a memorial that lists every soldier either KIA or MIA (identified as such) for every war since the town was established. When I go anywhere in town , I see at least one veteran of war from either WWII to the current wars in Iraq and Afg, including the ones who have lost their limbs and are wearing prosthetics, all wearing either shirts or hats identifying the wars they served in. Military service in the US is a matter of Pride. But, I know US does not treat their vets that well either, we have a lot of homeless vets with no help at all. But, when you compare what treatment the rest of the world gives to their vets, the US seems to be much better if not the best.

This will not change until at least some of our babus have their children or grand-children serving in the military. When the fear of loss hits them, that's only when the things may begin to change.

Anonymous said...

@ 722 PM
its not because senators in the US have kids in forces that they honor them....

the problem here is not just with babus....sure we remember the military on special days...but on other days ??how often do us civillians do anything to honor them...why??coz hw many of us "middle class" have a close relative serving?very few.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that in the US the general feeling that is vets are treated very shabbily.

We know however that they are treated much better than they are in India - and yet this sentiment exists in US.

That is how far ahead of us they are.

Very sad indeed.

We only honor ministers and politicians here.

-Vishal

Kos said...

I agree with all your points, but consider a different angle.
we dont have space for our living, where do we get the space for our dead?
i say this with irony and regret, not out of disrespect to our dead.

Anonymous said...

Kos at 11:29PM. I got an idea: Get rid of the public housing that most of our MPs and otehr babus get. They make more in direct pay (and a ton more under the table) than an average "Ramu", they can afford it. Use this vacated space to build a memorials for our heros. Anyway, the babus will still get a lot more than they deserve or are worth. Now getting the babus to agree to this is more difficult than it's for the Baba-Ramdev to get his agenda thru.

Anonymous said...

kos, you ratshaker..there is plenty of space, why dont we bring down ambanis 27storey house and make it a memorial.. if we have so much space for 1 man, i think we can spare space for our jawans.. this is the problem with you ratshakers, you sit on your chair and have mental diarrhoea and claim it as "knowledge" - I suggest you go back to the RAThole you crawled out of.

Anonymous said...

Shiv,
I have been fortunate to visit Arlington, as well as military cemeteries in Belgium and France. These are all wonderfully maintained and clearly demonstrate the respect paid by civil societies to those who made the supreme sacrifice.
War memorials need not be just cemeteries. Since you are in the DC area, I am sure you will also be able to pay a quick visit to the Vietnam and Korean war memorials. These, as well as Yad Vashem, the Holocause memorial out of Tel Aviv, are excellent examples of the same respect accorded to the fallen.
In India, the only war cemeteries worth mentioning are those paid for and maintained by the British. Khadki, Imphal and Kohima come to mind.
In an attempt to continue to reinforce the "civil supremacy over the military", there has been a conscious decision by the bureaucracy to deny those heroes who have fallen in the service of the nation a fitting memorial. The average joe on the street in India is unfortunately too consumed by the daily relentless struggle to live to really spare a thought for those who have gone before. All in all, we appear to be a society which does not value heritage and sacrifice. Fortunately the Armed forces maintain their unit memorials to the fallen. At least they are remembered within their community, if not amongst the wider society at large.
I can only hope we improve....

Kos said...

anon@2:41
wow. ratshaker. it took me some while to understand that this was an insult. kindly refrain from insulting people blindly. it shows your mental level.
just giving out non sensical ideas, does not make u a better patriot than me. you need to understand the ground realities too.
a little bit of realism would add great respect to your supposed patriotism.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:10
Astute observation by you....bloody our Elite - "IAS,IFS,IPS,IITian,Doctors,Lawyers & Engineers & Corporate Honchos" bring us down for vested interest and we blame the Politician. Politicians are just a leach sucking most on the system created by our Elite.

Hrishikesh said...

We have our own war memorials . India Gate, Drass, Jalianwala Bag.

I am of the view that the memorials are best at the places where the fights actually took place. Makes people realise what hardships do people place, else it is all acedemic. Visit Drass and it hits even harder.

As for national war memorial - probably this is know only to people who get to visit Chanakyapuri in Delhi. NDA government was on the verge of commission National Police Memorial in Chanakyapuri in 2004 but as soon as Italian Madam came to power the construction was stopped and it was eventually ripped apart. Sad but ugly truth and to bear the fact the Italian amul baby is cited asIndia's future PM.

In any case visit that ill fated attempt opposite Chanakyapuri police station / Youth Center and you would know why India does not have a National War Memorial.

If the precursor was destroyed by Indians / pseudo Indians how can we have a National War Memorial.

RIP Martyrs.

Anonymous said...

Well, about the person in the US going and saying thank you to the ununiformed/uniformed military member - should be taken in the context that US has been at War/Major conflict consistently: WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq - not to mention the draft during WW2 and Vietnam. Repeated and almost continuous exposure to news, having close ones involved has brought this culture and awareness to the US among the average "Joe" on the street here.

It is not a good idea to compare the feelings of that average guy in the US ( a nation that has been in major conflicts repeatedly) with that of perosn in India.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:28
We have been at war for last 1000 years. Even if you consider our 62 years of independence, we have been at war at fairly regular intervals. Thus, war memorial are essential for us so that likes of Capt. Batra & Major Unnikrishnan are not forgotten. For only our martyrs in Armed forces and few in police too - are only & only committed to selfless service to the nation

Anonymous said...

Heres my problem...while we all would like to have war memorials..where would they come up...by evicting some slum dwellers who barely make it through life...how about we have a war memorial on marine drive in mumbai....lets acquire the land on which a few corporate offices stand and build it...you will see media nd (therefore our middle class) calling it the signs of a military coup