The following was originally posted on November 11, 2006.
I've been thinking about this topic for a while, and trying to reconcile how I feel. So, this is likely to be a very disjointed, stream-of-consciousness post. I apologize, in advance.
Those of you who know me, know I'm a veteran (yes, that's a picture of me, much younger ... and cuter ;). Deus Ex Machina is also a veteran. In fact, we met while we were both enlisted ... but that's another (really cool!) story.
My father is a veteran, too. He served twenty years, during the Vietnam Era from 1960 to 1981. He was seventeen when he enlisted, went to OCS in his early twenties and retired at the age of thirty-eight.
My father has eight brothers. All of them are veterans (five Army, two marines, and one Navy)
My grandpa was a WWII veteran.
By the mid-1800s, my ancestors had firmly settled in the Knox County, Kentucky area, and I had relatives fighting on both sides of the Civil War. In fact, a great uncle was interred in the infamous POW camp for captured Union soldiers - Andersonville Prison.
My family lineage can be traced back to pre-Revolutionary Days in the Virginia/North Carolina/Kentucky area. It's likely I had ancestors fighting in that war.
Military service has a long history in my family. In fact, when I applied for OCS during my enlistment, my "Why I Want to Be an Officer?" essay topic concentrated on the long history of military service in my family, and how it wasn't an "if", but almost a "when" for me regarding serving in the Armed Forces.
Today is Veteran's Day.
I'm a volunteer for the Books for Soldiers program. I don't know how I would have felt about the program when I was a service member, but as a civilian, I just really, really want to do something for our soldiers, and I know sending them books and care packages is such a trivial thing when they are being shot at - in some places on a daily basis (from their own words, and not from the media (mis)information) - and in some places living in squalor, having no reliable water source, and sometimes not enough to eat, but other than voting, which you all know I do, and writing to my representatives in Congress regularly, which I also do, there's not much else.
I guess I just wish that today's soldiers could enjoy the same support and sense that THEY aren't the bad guys that my grandfather did while he was in and when he returned from Europe. Those soldiers were revered rather than scorned, and quite frankly, with regard to the caliber of their character, World War II vets are no more valiant or honorable than average soldier of today.
I was a soldier, and I met a lot of really wonderful people.
I'd like to think I was one of them.
During the 1940's the whole country, the whole economy, everything, was affected by the war. Americans were cutting back, planting gardens, knitting caps, rationing sugar, tea and cigarettes ... all in support of our soldiers. We were all making sacrifices - just like our soldiers.
The other day, I received a note from another BFS volunteer that asked me to send condolences to this soldier and his unit for the loss of their buddy. It struck me as I was composing the letter and getting a care package together, that once I was finished packing the box and sending the letter, my life would go back to normal.
I'd do my work, visit my clients offices, take my girls to dance class, come home and cook dinner, watch some television and go to bed - in a real bed with real flannel sheets and a down comforter -, and in the morning, I'd carry on like we didn't have thousands of our citizens in hostile territory.
I mean, we're at WAR! and it's like nothing is different for most of us, except the occasional report of some battle or a soldier who has been killed or injured. Nothing's different. We go on, buying our cars, looking at new houses, going to the grocery store to buy our imported olive oil, worrying about cholesterol levels, vacationing on the beach, wintering in Florida.
Most of the time, we don't even acknowledge that WE'RE AT WAR! We're at war ... it doesn't have the same ring that it did back when that was a headline and FDR was President.
We're at WAR! And there are no Victory Gardens, there are no quilting parties to send blankets to our soldiers in Afghanistan (although they could use them in some places), there are no ration booklets, there is no Rosy the Riveter, there is very little support for our soldiers' families, there is very little support for our soldiers abroad and at home ....
We're at war ....
Happy Veteran's Day.