Veteran's Day

I wanted to make a Veteran's Day Post, but I never know what to say. Its not exactly a happy-wishing holiday. And while I know I am supposed to thank those who have fought and died for me, to me it feels rather like thanking the legions of slaves who made this country rich with their toil, or the many Native Americans who were slaughtered and relocated to make room for this town, and others. Afterall, without their sacrifice, there wouldn't be an America as we know it. Still somehow thanks seems innappropriate. Maybe anger is the more honorable reaction.

My site meter has been running neck and neck with the American death toll in Iraq for quite sometime. I kept thinking every week was going to be the week when this site had seen more visitors than dead soldiers, but that week still has not come. Every week there is another battle, another roadside bomb, another stupid massacre and the numbers of soldiers who have died there for nothing climbs greater still. It seems the traffic on my little blog cannot keep pace with war's appetite for young blood. How could I thank these people?

Some just say it was for freedom, cause that feels right. Has a ring to it. Its so hard to say the truth- that they are dying for senseless, greedy politics. It sounds more respectful to call it freedom, though really we all know that lies are no way to honor the dead.

Maybe I should call Jeff. I saw him in a bar one night two years ago. I thought he was home for the holidays from college in Santa Barbara. Someone told me he'd just come back from deployment. I bought him a drink. There was so little to say. We slurped bourbons and I asked him questions and listened to him talk.
He looked old. His face was so much heavier than it was in high school when we used to share cigarettes outside concerts. We met when he gave me a quarter to play a song on the harmonica. He'd do hat tricks and run up alley walls like Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain.
He told me how stupid it all was, and how grateful he was to be home in one piece. It was hard to believe, he said. When he said this he would look around quickly as if he couldn't shake the danger, though he knew he should be glad now. It was so hard to see him this way. I apologized for asking too many questions. "Its ok," he said. "Its good to talk about it. No one wants to hear how it really is, they just want to think what they want to think..." That is the price that surviving soldiers pay for our illusion of "freedom".

Maybe I should call my uncle, the career Marine. I know he would be happy to call the war a freedom fight. When he returned we gave him a party with a red, white, and blue sheet cake. He was proud to tell heroic stories, and showed pictures of himself giving out candy and smokes to local kids, who were happy to pose for a picture in exchange.
But I can read between the lines. I remember him condemning the prospective war in Iraq over Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago. He called it ridiculous, and said it was clearly about oil-and everyone in the military knows it, he said. After the war began, we weren't allowed to talk about that anymore. After all, he had a job to do. We shouldn't trouble him with the truth, even though he already knew it.
Soon, silence gave way to outright lies. People in the family started making Saddam Hussein jokes and talking about how grateful they are to the President for keeping us free.
I wonder if Uncle Will felt caught in that. Anyway, if he did, he didn't let on. He stayed proud, even volunteering for redeployment. Now he's had some old injuries giving him a hard time, so he's asked to be discharged.

I could call any one of the veterans I know, but somehow it doesn't feel quite right. I don't want to obligate them to be happy, nor do I want to burden them with my gratitude. The only thing I really want to wish them is peace. Peace this Veteran's Day. Peace to all those who have died. Peace to those who survive. Peace now and forever. That is my prayer.


Blogger crenshaw sepulveda said...

Thank you for this brilliant and moving post. I can't add anything to your thoughts, I can only hope that more people see Veteran's Day through your eyes. I'm ready for a holiday celebrating PEACE or at least aspiring towards peace. I want peace monuments instead of war monuments. How many war monuments at our Capitol Campus? How many monuments there for peace? It is not even a question of giving peace a chance, it is more like even giving it a mention.

2:13 PM  

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