AMAC Exclusive – By – David P. Deavel
Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of summer and a time for patriotic remembrance of our fallen war dead and, for many of us, fallen family members, many of whom were veterans. I have been thinking of the five sons of Victor Sowers, Sr., my mother’s brothers, all of whom served in World War II and returned, while pondering the parlous state of the military today.
The Sowers brothers would, no doubt, have joined a group of veterans and Republicans in Congress who are banding together to fight the imposition of left-wing ideology on the U. S. Armed Forces. Air Force Lt. General Rod Bishop (retired) began Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services (STARRS) last year when the Air Force Academy football team released a video endorsing both Black Lives Matter and “antiracist” education, reports the Washington Free Beacon. After complaining to no avail, the retired general heard from many other veterans and active duty members of the various branches who were experiencing the same kinds of indoctrination in Critical Race Theory and other progressive doctrines. After U. S. Space Force Lt. Colonel Matthew Lohmeier was fired for self-publishing Irresistible Revolution: Marxism’s Goal of Conquest and the Unmaking of the American Military, a book detailing what he calls the “Neo-Marxist agenda” (and currently #4 among all books on Amazon), thirty members of STARRS sent an open letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin asking him to “take action to fight back against the creeping left-wing extremism in the U.S. military.”
The Free Beacon reports that there is no response to the STARRS letter from the Pentagon, but the signs are not good given Secretary Austin’s own confirmation testimony that he would work to rid the military of “racists and extremists,” a statement that is ominous given the recent history of reports and statements from various branches of the military, as well as comments such as that of retired Army General Thomas Kolditz, who said that the goal should be to purge “Trump loyalists.” Mike Gonzalez and Dakota Wood of the Heritage Foundation reported that the Defense Department is “reportedly considering hiring a private company to monitor the free speech of military personal on social media, using key words or algorithms that by their very nature reflect the perspective of those who select the words and write the algorithms.”
While my Sowers uncles made all the jokes about the foolishness of those running the Army and Navy in the 1940s and laughed about the military censors’ sometimes senseless clipping of passages from their letters, they would not have thought what was happening now is at all funny. They fought for a country they did not believe inherently racist or unjust. They fought for a country where the perfection of freedom was sought.
Blaine, the fourth son and a paper carrier, told a reporter more than fifty years later that he remembered hearing a dull thump on the porch the evening of December 7, 1941. It was 135 copies of an “extra edition” of the South Bend Tribune (the paper that interviewed him in the 1990s) detailing the attack on Pearl Harbor earlier that day. Victor, Jr., the second son, was already serving in the Army Air Corps (which became the Air Force in 1947), and the other boys would all eventually enlist as well—no waiting to be drafted—including my youngest uncle, Lowell, who lied about his age to get in the Army Air Corps and served in Japan.
Victor served in what even he considered was a “cushy” job, crew chief on board a plane used by the part of the Army making training movies. He ended up meeting a pilot named Jimmy Stewart and another officer named Ronald Reagan in his work. Oldest brother Bud was also in California with the Army, but he was testing “barrage balloons,” which were balloons with dangling cables meant for the interception of planes in case there was an invasion of the west coast à la Pearl Harbor.
I heard most about the war from Uncle Blaine. I remember him telling stories especially when he and Aunt Esther hosted the annual family reunion, stories made vivid because he would take us for rides in the vintage World War II jeep he had bought and mounted with a (non-functioning) machine gun. My son Vincent loved that jeep as a little boy. Blaine had been stationed in the Pacific on board a minesweeper and monitored the radar. He recalled the time his radar screen “snowed” kamikaze pilots.
To me, Blaine’s best story involved his brother. Uncle Everett, the third son, was also in the Navy but spent most of his time in the Mediterranean. A sonar man on board the U. S. S. Ludlow, he received a commendation for finding a German submarine that the Ludlow was then able to sink. At one point during the war, however, Everett was out of contact with the entire family for more than a year. My grandmother, who had an American flag hanging out front with five gold stars—one for each son in the war—prayed on her knees every night for her boys, terrified as the time went on with no word if Everett was alive or dead. The suspense was broken, however, when, walking into a barbershop in Tokyo, Blaine spotted Everett sitting in a chair. That was a sweet reunion.
The Sowers boys were survivors. As part of the “greatest generation,” they went on to careers in all sorts of fields, raised children, and served their communities and churches in myriad ways. They knew they were not heroes—“They’re all buried at sea or in some cemetery,” Blaine told a reporter a half-century later. “We’re five of the luckiest guys in the world.”
As we remember the heroes and the brave men who survived this weekend, let us remember that their sacrifices, great and small, were noble ones done on behalf of a country that they knew was imperfect—which one isn’t?—but is also worth fighting for. They knew racism existed but also that it is not part of our Constitutional DNA. A woke military that considers the country racist and conservatives no better than Nazis stands little chance of being willing or able to defend us.
David P. Deavel is editor of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of the Deep Down Things podcast.