I'd like to preface this entry by saying that I do not claim to know much about war, the actions of our government and the thoughts of our military as they carry out government orders. I do not claim to speak for anyone other than myself and this being my blog, these are my thoughts - popular or not. I write here for me - not you, the reader.
What is there to be said that hasn't been said a million times? When I think about the military my thoughts turn to my family and friends who have recently served in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am consumed by fears for these loved ones who are still deployed and who are returning changed by what they've witnessed. These are memories and visions that I, as a civilian, can not begin to fathom. I know what I see on the news since my loved ones rarely talk about their experiences. I don't ask questions because I do not want to dredge up painful memories but I listen if someone needs to talk.
I've always said that happiness is so much easier to share than misery and this is why we have so many famous poems about loss and pain Happiness can be shouted from the rooftops but pain - pain is different - it's personal. Those poems I speak of rarely come to light during the lives of their writers but rather posthumously.
"War" as defined by dictionary.com is: a conflict carried on by force of arms, as between nations or between parties within a nation; warfare, as by land, sea, or air. The etymology of the word "war" from the Online Etymology Dictionary says it is 'derived from the German word verwirren: "to confuse, perplex" Cognates suggest the original sense was "to bring into confusion."'
I would say "to cause confusion" is definitely what war does,for the aggressor, defender and those on the outside looking in. I will never understand why people continue to go to war in this day and age. Aren't we all taught as kids that violence only begets violence and the way to solve a problem is through discussion? Why is it our world is still like a kindergarten playground being run by the first grade bullies?
But I digress ...
Earlier when I said my thoughts of military direct my brain to recent issues in Afghanistan and Iraq it is because these are the deployments that directly touch my life. This isn't to say that I am not just as proud of those who have gone before my time - these were just not military actions of my lifetime. Until recently I have not been exposed to any veterans of other military actions. My grandfather was a veteran though I was 10 when he passed away so I never had the chance to know him truly. If I had I imagine I would be much better versed in past war history.
When I consider how returning soldiers from Vietnam were treated I am sickened. I can not imagine a world where someone who puts their life on the line for my country and has made it home is not treated like the hero they are. These men and women humble me with their sacrifice. Even more I can't begin to imagine how Vietnam soldiers felt since, then, our military wasn't so much made up of people who were to serve by choice but rather by draft in a lot of cases. They did not choose to go and people did not choose to celebrate their homecoming. It quite literally makes my heart hurt.
I don't know a lot about war or the history of war because learning about it doesn't bring me joy. Thinking about the losses all the way around from those who didn't make it home alive and the continued suffering of those who did is enough to spur a panic attack in me.
For the past month I have been staying with someone whom, at this point, I would consider family . He is a Vietnam Veteran and one of the nicest, most caring people I have ever met. Tonight as we were sitting around watching some TV he was surfing the internet and I could feel the shift in his demanor as he read an article online. Turns out it was an article about his unit and their actions during Vietnam, an article about the Battle of Fire Support Base Ripcord. He became visibly upset and asked me why it still bothers him this many years later. I wish like hell I could have an answer for that but as I told him - I don't know because I don't know what his experiences were nor could I even begin to understand what was happening there. I can't equate the terror of war to anything or any experience I've ever had in my life short of the fear I felt watching the World Trade buildings come down on September 11th. Like many I sat there glued to the TV that morning and for days after almost 24/7. Living in MD where there's a huge target avery 20 miles or so and working overnight shift alone mere minutes from the Naval Academy my mind was often in overdrive with fear. But even that doesn't come close to what it must be like to hear the sounds, smell the smells and see what war really does on the ground. I wish like hell I had an answer or to even be able to maybe just wipe those memories out of his head for him so that he can have some measure of relief this many years later. He deserves to know happiness not tainted with the memories of the past.
All I can truly know about is who he is today and while grateful for his service for my freedom, all that matters is today and today he is an absolutely amazing person. The past is painful and it's no place to stay, live and take joy in today.
I'm posting this early because I hit the road tomorrow and I don't know when I'll have internet access again. I know that my time here will be one of the best memories of my life as I go forward. I hope that I can treat the world as kind as Murf has treated me.
For that I say, Thank you for your service, your sacrifice and for setting the bar on how I affect the world around me.