Friday, November 11, 2011

My Veteran's Day Post

While there are still a couple of hours left of Veteran's Day, I've decided to write something. So here it is.

I wasn't going to write anything. It's not that I don't share the general sentiment most rational people hold regarding thankfulness for the risks taken and sacrifices made by those of our fellow citizens who serve in the military. Of course I do. But somehow a blog post seems cheap.

This is not to say that I have any issues with others who post something to honor soldiers, sailors and pilots. I've read, over the years, many fine tributes that humble. But nothing humbles more than the military man himself, merely by his presence, for his presence represents so much.

Part of what such people represent is the fact that I never served. It is among the few true regrets I have thus far in my life. Now at an age when I don't believe I could even get a waiver, nor pass a physical in a manner that meets their standards (at least I hope those standards are still that high), I have an appreciation for what serving and having served represents.

I shouldn't say I never appreciated those things. Indeed, I always had respect for the military. When I was in high school, Viet Nam was still a major concern for teens approaching draft age. Personally, I was not down with all the facts of the war being far too busy getting faced and enjoying the residual vibes of the Woodstock generation. I didn't understand what was going on, and though I was not among those worms that "loathed" the military or thought your average Marine was a savage scumbag awaiting his own My Lai opportunity, I was impacted by the distorted tales of Viet Nam and the conflict there and, in particular, what it meant for the average draftee. Too many uncertainties made it clear that I hadn't enough info to simply await my number being called as if was today's Lotto.

As it turned out, the year I came of age was the year the draft ended. I was spared the anxiety of learning that Uncle Sam wanted me. Within the next couple of years, one friend joined the Navy and another the Air Force. I was still engaged in the serious business of good times and personal pleasure and could not see the upside of enlisting. Strangely, I actually had a problem with the idea of doing so for personal gain. It somehow seemed wrong to enlist without serving my country as the main reason. And since we were no longer fighting in View Nam at this point, I didn't feel I'd be really serving anyway, just playing soldier. I wasn't really a big picture guy back then.

Now, and ever since 9/11 specifically, I feel I have very little right to make any kind of public showing of "SALUTING OUR MEN AND WOMEN IN THE MILITARY!!!!!!" I don't feel worthy. This feeling hit home a year ago and returned again this morning when I read the paper. There on the front page was a story of a girl from my church who lost her young husband in Afghanistan. It happened on 11/10/10 and I remembered going to the funeral. More than ever I felt that I had no right to bitch and moan. This kid gave his life. What have I done that measures up to that?

Yeah. I'm grateful. Absolutely. And definitely humbled and not a little bit ashamed for letting others do what I should have done, and certainly could have done, even though there was no fighting going on at the time. Sure, it's easy to say now, and I don't much care who does or does not find my words credible. But it's how I feel. I owe. Who doesn't?

6 comments:

Mark said...

A unique point of view.

Yes, perhaps it is best we say nothing when mere words fail to express the gratitude we owe to our veterans. All gave some. Some gave all.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Nothing to be ashamed of. People serve their country in many ways besides military service. Most people in their teens or early 20s of your era wanted nothing to do with the military BECAUSE of Vietnam. It is really too bad, because we had no right to be over there wasting people away for nothing.

I sometimes feel bad about not going to Vietnam - but I had no choice where they sent me. Everyone in my combat engineer class who did not go to jump school went to Vietnam. I went to jump school and was assigned state-side to a one-of-a-kind unit which could no longer do its job due to shortage of troops - too many of theirs were sent to 'Nam. The closest I came to war was in October 1973 when we were on alert to go help Israel.

You serve your country the way you can now - and that's what is important.

Stan said...

"the year I came of age was the year the draft ended."

We must be really close to the same age. I went to register for the draft on my 18th birthday only to find they'd closed the doors.

Still served 10 years, but not by draft.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Art, I went into the Air Force looking for something different and to get the hell out of Illinois. The fact that I was also serving this country as a soldier was just the coincidental downside to that free ride. But, serve I did and gotta say you too would have had some fun. I know. No regrets. To me it was mostly living the Reader's Digest Humor In Uniform. I can only imagine what civilian folks and friends thought of me but I never thought of it as living a nobler deed. Hardly. But, you had to be there. Anyway, those were some heartfelt words you tossed out to the uniformed services. That you have it in you to feel them is service enough. Funny how that day in the recruiter's office in Elgin shaped both of our lives so differently.

Marshall Art said...

Hey, my friend! Thanks for stopping by the blog! I appreciate your words. Miss you very much and hope there might be some way we can hook up again in the not too distant future. Hope all is well with you and yours. Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Jeanie and the boys send their hardy holiday bestesses to you and yorn. Well, okay, I do too. I'm always around. Have a great 2012 and lets hope is doesn't provide us with more reason for treason and anarchain refrain. Ama 'bout up to here I tellya. Will be in touch.

-Joe