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25 May 2020


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Harper and Madam Harper claim that my novels are "a solid grounding in ..."

If You want something else, read "The Civil War, a Narrative" by Shelby Foote. pl

Bobby Murray

I fully agree sir, just like someone else here - a gem of a human being.


Interesting, I had to look into that. Thanks a lot for the hint.

Attorneys Anchorage Alaska

One issue that arose in recent years is the denial of veteran's benefits to those who are dishonorably discharged. That seems fair, but there are thousands of combat vets who come home a bit screwed up and get kicked out of the military for bad things.


" but there are thousands of combat vets who come home a bit screwed up and get kicked out of the military for bad things."

Just what facts might you have to make this statement? Thousands of people with zero military experience get fired every year for 'bad things' and they have no right to further employment benefits.

FB Ali

Col Lang,

One of the nice things about your reposting some of these old gems is that it enables one to 'hear' again the voices of some old friends - such as Alan Farrell and Charles Degutis.

Thank you!


I was pulled along and thrown back at the same time.

Me too. I thought I’d read the first paragraph then finish when I got home from what I was charged to run out to get. Couldn’t. It grabbed me and held me to the screen.

He was MACVSOG, wasn’t he?


FB Ali

Alan still persists, living alone on Stallings Mountain near Glasgow, Virginia among the buildings he built with his own hands and bulldozers. pl


When Memorial Day and Veterans' Day come around I usually approach speeches and essays for the occasions with wariness and skepticism. Doubly so if they are by politicians. While a commencement address, Farrell's piece was first rate and quite timely this weekend.

Since the conversation has gone down a literary path I wish to ask a question. I have struck out on the web so far, does anyone know where Conrad (possibly) used the phrase "filching lucre and gulping warm beer." That really is quite good.

Thank you to anyone who can point me to the source.



Thank you for giving us this beautiful piece. Reminded me of Ken Kesey's writing.



I don't remember that this was a commencement address. I don't remember what it was. He used to speak a lot for veteran's groups and in prisons as he mentions. pl


Veteran’s Day 2009, to vets at Harvard Business School.


Col., I may have misinterpreted when I read this line, "I've gotta hope as a teacher that my Cadets, as a citizen that you and your buddies will have the inner resources, the stuff of inner life, the values in short, to abide the brute loneliness of after, to find the courage to continue the march, to do Right, to live with what they've done, you've done in our name, to endure that dark hour of frustration, humiliation, failure maybe... or victory, for one or the other is surely waiting Back Here.

It sounded like he was giving advice to a VMI class that was going out there to deal with... whatever would await them.


I did a Google search for "filching lucre" and it turned up this: https://books.google.gr/books?id=JsKac5B-fl4C&pg=PA100&lpg=PA100&dq=filching+lucre&source=bl&ots=a5vPPZqW5d&sig=rjPENPNVpW4guGYtuvzD7-k9HsA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjplavgooDNAhXLD8AKHYgUDqsQ6AEIGzAA#v=onepage&q=filching%20lucre&f=false

I have not read the book, published in 2007, but I just read the "Preface." The book contains his reviews of many films. I hesitate to impute motive or intention and will let M Sgt. and Prof. Farrell explain it. My speculation is that he might be "taking the Mickey" out of some of the pretentiousness of film reviews and literary theory of the last 40+ years. Some of that stems from American film critics I think, and I speculate that some of it comes from his academic background in literature (French Literature especially) and his age, a few years older than I am. Obviously, I will let Farrell have the last word here, if he so chooses, and I will be ordering the book.


Thank you for re-posting this, Colonel. Very moving and very apt. As the daughter of a WW II vet and US Army Reserve Sergeant Major, Prof. Farrell's reflections remind me of my father, who almost never spoke of his service in Europe (1945). When he celebrated his 100th birthday, I pressed him for a few reminiscences - all were about his fellow-soldiers, human moments, or about the starving concentration camp survivors the 83rd ID encountered when it liberated Langenstein, a satellite camp of Buchenwald. His memories of battle he kept to himself.

Charles Michael

Reading the text of Alan Farrel is reading a dark and beautiful poem.

In it unique way it links the old virtues that were tought to us (those days) to the fundamental loneliness of Being.


A very moving essay. Thank you for publishing it.
I recall my older brother and I being warned by our father never, ever to let him learn - on pain of a "leathering" (belting) - we had bothered or mocked B McM, an alcoholic who could be seen stumble around the streets of the smallish village we lived in during the 1960s. The population of the village was fairly stable back then (one of our neighbours who'd moved there in 1938 was considered an "interloper ") and B McM had siblings and boyhood friends who helped him get by after a fashion. In later years we learned that B McM as a young soldier had been one of those tasked with bulldozing corpses into mass graves at Bergen Belsen to avoid public health disaster.
In the more mobile world we now inhabit, with proprietors moving house around once every seven years (figure from 2000 , perhaps more frequently now) perhaps even in smallish villages it is less likely that the B McMs of the world would have the support of family and friends.



He was at that time Dean of the Faculty at VMI. pl


"Soldiers don't start wars. Civilians do. And civilians say when they're over. I'm just satisfied right now that these kids, for better or worse, did their duty as God gave them the light to see it. But I want them back."

Great, haunting piece by Alan Farrell. Thanks for posting it. I read it after my usual 5 hours of sleep after falling asleep on the couch as I normally do these days. And now once again I cannot sleep as usual. I am a civilian and I take that responsibility very seriously. I don't know war personally and most likely never will first hand. I do know familial destruction from the devastated remnants of my Eastern European relatives who fled the ravages of Europe for the safety of this country. I was raised as part of the privileged minority in this country that was raised to run the country, to become the elite that dictate policy and use other people's children to fight wars in other places.

I cannot know what it is that many (all?) of you soldiers have to live with after your have served. I can only imagine what that it is. I do know solitude, isolation and the despair that drives me late night after late night to stay informed about what is happening worldwide so I can be the pain the ass that I am to most people. I rejected long ago the path of domination that was laid out for me in my elite white suburb of NY and that was taken by so many of my oldest friends who so easily took what was/is seemingly "theirs" to take. And take is what they still do even though they already have so much...

"Nobody can help... except by trying to build a society Back Here that deserves such a sacrifice."

I take to the streets for decades now to fruitlessly stop other people from having to fight what I have been told for those same decades are "my interests." I get little solace from my actions nor do I expect any. And I do know what a good life I have in comparison to so many others in this country who struggle on so many fronts..I have been lucky enough to learn and understand my good fortune throughout the course of my life. I am both a man of the streets through my labor and one that has meetings in the over-built, luxurious offices of Manhattan.

"So here's my question: Why on earth would anybody want to be normal?"

I don't know what normal is, I don't think I ever have. In NY, I am sickened by the extreme wealth and the poverty rolled all together....although now in Manhattan (my former home) the poverty has been largely expunged, pushed elsewhere, out of sight. In the 80's the streets were filled with the homeless, many of them apparently Vietnam vets, whom I passed by nearly every moment of my life back then. Now the city has been cleaned up so those homeless veterans are not a continual affront to us good citizens and not a constant reminder of what some people have to endure. Where have they all gone? Maybe into the isolation and personal despair that Mr. Farrell's piece alludes to.

So on this day of Memorial, I think on the many people who have given so much in service to both their country and in service to those "leaders" who continue to make decisions so often in their personal/class interest and not in the name of those they purportedly serve...

I also give thanks to the efforts of Colonel Lang and others at this site who have served their country and continue to serve in the discussions here from which I continue my quest to be a citizen worthy of that title.

David Habakkuk

Colonel Lang,

A couple of thoughts, rereading this piece.

If I recall correctly from comments of yours some time back, the ‘humanities’ are being marginalised at VMI.

Assuming that I have not misremembered, and this is indeed the case, it seems to me an apt illustration of the suicidal mentality of contemporary élites.

One thing that should have been made amply clear from recent history is that there is a vast range of problems in the understanding of which a grasp of technical military considerations, and an understanding of the history and culture both of other societies and one’s own, are indispensable.

Moreover, one simply cannot as it were ‘parcel up’ these different kinds of understanding. Only can only hope to make some progress towards making some sense of things, if there are military people who have broader understandings, and civilians who are prepared to make a serious effort to understand military technicalities.

So, for instance, if one wants to make any sense of events in the post-Soviet space, some understanding of the events of 1941-5, in all their complexity and ambiguity, is critical.

And, of course, here, the pre-eminent figure in opening up the Western historiography on this subject – in emancipating it from an over- and uncritical dependence on German sources – is your fellow VMI alumnus Colonel David Glantz.

Again, I was both amused – and frankly relieved – to discover, after he became CJCS, that General Dempsey had done a thesis on Yeats.

The complexities, and ambiguities, of nationalism are central to making sense of very many aspects of today’s world. I can think of many worse ways of being introduced to these than reflection upon the histories of Yeats and his friends.

They came, most of them, from the ‘Protestant Ascendancy’ – but then, the woman he loved (mistakenly, in my view!), Maud Gonne, and others of his oldest friends, like Constance Markiewicz, were up to their necks (almost literally, in the latter case), in nationalist politics.

And, critically, thinking seriously about the work a writer like Yeats, and the reasons he wrote as he did, is in itself an education in the exercise of imagination.

Another point that strikes me, rereading Alan Farrell’s piece, is that although the gap between veterans and civilians has always been there, it seems to me it may be much more acute now than at earlier times.

In my own generation, and its predecessor, most of us had members of our families, as well as the parents and grandparents of friends, who had served either in one or other of the world wars. (So also, among school and university teachers, there were a fair number who had done so.)

Quite often, the presence of family members was felt as a silence: either because they were dead, or because they never talked about their experiences. But then, it was not the kind of silence which inclined one to treat what those involved had been through lightly.

Peter AU

"Nobody can help... except by trying to build a society Back Here that deserves such a sacrifice."

The wars that the US has fought in the last decades, perhaps most post WWII wars, seem to be a product of US society.
If the US had a society that deserved such sacrifice, many of these wars may not have occurred, or the US may not have been involved in them?

The Twisted Genius

Thanks for reposting this, Colonel Lang. Like a fine wine, it becomes fuller, more sophisticated and satisfying with every reading. Solitude is a wonderful gift from God, but it can be addicting.

mike allen

A minor snivel or quibble on my part, not to the post, but to MRW and Stonevendor:

There is no apostrophe in "Veterans Day". Ike and Congress back in 54 deliberately never put an apostrophe in the name. This day does not belong to veterans alone.


Colonel Lang - I hope you will forgive my persnicketyness. I'm getting to be a fussy old man like my grandfather (who by the way never gave up on the term Armistice Day).


mike allen

on 11 November 1839 a cadet sentinel guard replaced the Virginia militia guard on the arsenal at Lexington and VMI was born. pl


clamor! clamor! clamor! come back, Shane!

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