I am hesitant to write this piece – I told myself early on that this blog would be about food or topics relating to it, but I have been bothered by this subject for some time now and need to get it out.
Today November 11, is Veterans Day – a national holiday in the U.S. Though this holiday is seemingly forgotten in its relevance in our society. Our nation is currently at war on two fronts in Afganistan and Iraq – American and ally soldiers are thrusting themselves into harms way on a daily basis and have been for several years and many have given their lives for what we define as defending the American way of life. Yet back stateside, these wars are dismissed into the shadows – we have the audacity to to even refer to the war in Afganistan as “the forgotten war.” I find this terribly offensive and I am not in any way connected to the armed forces other than having a couple friends that have fortunately returned from their deployments. I cannot imagine how offensive they find this term for the war in Afganistan especially because no matter how hard they try they will never be capable of forgetting and niether should we.
My grandfather was a vteran of WWII – he was a pilot in the European theatre and I know for a fact that he never forgot. I was taught a valuable lesson from him at a very early age – to respect and thank every person that was in the military, for they were doing a job most others wouldn’t. I can recall numerous situations where we would be out to dinner and Papa would spot a soldier in uniform dining. He would beckon the server over and instruct him/her that all of that soldiers tab was to be put on his bill. He expected no gratitude for this act of generosity, for this was his way of thanking them. A while back I was stuck in an airport waiting on a flight – probably because I had missed mine which happens a lot more than I would like to admit. So I walked into one of my least favorite places on earth (Chili’s) to grab a beer and burn some time. I pulled up to the bar and spotted a man sitting by himself dressed in desert fatigues staring into the wall across from us in total silence. After several minutes the bartender approaches and asks what I want (in those exact words – I fukn hate Chili’s). I motion to the gentlemen sitting next to me and reply two of whatever he’s having. The soldier’s focus on the wall is interupted and he says that isn’t necessary, I said oh are you about to leave for your flight? To which he replied no and I said again to the barkeep ok I’ll have two of those please. Our outragously priced lowgrade beverages arrive and I slide the second one over to the man. He thanks me, feeling almost uncomfortable even talking to me, which I understand because I rarely if ever talk to strangers. Not a problem I reply – are you coming or going? Coming home he says. I congradulate him and wish him luck, he is returning to his bride and newborn son. Though I wouldn’t say I could see much excitement in his eyes. We spend the next thirty mintues drinking our beverages in relative silence – me watching my fellow travelers make their way from one place to another and the soldier staring into his glass like some sort of crystal ball. Realizing I’m about to miss my second flight of the day, I hop off my stool and bid him farewell. He looks me in the eyes and shakes my hand thanking me for the drink. I tell him it was my pleasure I appreciated what he had done for me and our country. I wish him well and good luck on his meeting his new son. This was serveral years ago, yet I think of that man often – wondering where he is and how he is doing. I think of his hallow eyes and the fear I sensed of his return to “normal life.”
The events of last week at Ft. Hood in Texas brought the momories of that mind back along with a rush of emotions. I fear that our society’s ADD is getting the best of us. While we say we appreciate what our troops are doing for us – we are not showing it very well. Suicide amongst members of the military is at an all time high. Instances of substance abuse, domestic conflicts are skyrocketing as well. We are stretching our protectors far to thin with multiple deployments and minimal assistance when they return. We are sending these men and women into hell and when they come back we seem to expect them to reintegrate like they were off on an extended vacation. I’ve never been in a war but I feel confident that it is no vacation. This is why I feel it necessary to advocate a greater emphasis be put on helping these soldiers as much as possible not only when they return but while they are away too. It is our nations duty to offer as much resources as possible to help these people cope with what they experienced while protecting us. No expense should be spared – we owe that to them along with their families and much much more.
If we are going to allow our nation to wage war using American soldiers – we should not allow ourselves to disconnect our involvement. The fact that our soldiers are in harms way should be remembered and at the forefront – if that makes us uncomfortable maybe we should be there in the first place. I am not advocating our involvement in one way or another – I just believe we shouldn’t forget about it. While Veteran’s Day is only one day I think we should remember those men and women daily – keeping them and thier families in mind.