I’ve been wanting to write this entry all day, but, as sometimes happens, my internet service was out of commission. Thanks to Chris, the weekend wrangler, pet-sitter and computer wiz, here we go.
These past few days, I’ve seen veterans around town, selling the familiar red poppies. Many of them are my dad’s age, part of the Greatest Generation–you know, the one that saved the world? It touches me to see these people, still serving, still proud, even after all these years. These are the folks who helped to liberate Europe, who landed on Iwo Jima and other Pacific islands, under relentless machine-gun fire. Thousands of them gave, in Lincoln’s words, “the last full measure of devotion”, in service of a country they believed in with all their hearts and minds. The lucky ones returned to a hero’s welcome–America was grateful, and rightly so.
The Korean conflict followed, and these brave soldiers were welcomed, too.
Then came Viet Nam.
I’m old enough to remember that war clearly–in fact, my 19 year old husband went to Southeast Asia, winding up in the artillery, right in the thick of battle. He was changed forever by the experience of war, as anybody would be. The difference was, when these soldiers returned, they were regarded as villains, reviled and insulted and sometimes even spat upon. At best, they received platitudes from their government, but no real help, and very little understanding. For some incomprehensible reason, certain people blamed these very young men (women didn’t go to the front in those days), when they should have been blaming their elected officials, senators, representatives, and, yes, a few presidents, too.
I have always been proud to be an American, and I always will be, but the treatment these soldiers received was downright shameful. They were called up to serve their country, in a war that shouldn’t have happened. Today, too many of them are broken and burned out, pan-handling at freeway exit ramps. Many more are hard workers and fine citizens, husbands and fathers and grandfathers, but with a few cracks secreted away in their hearts.
Today, with our military facing death 24/7 in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the motto is, “Support Our Troops”, and that’s a very good thing. As many of you know, I speak up for soldiers whenever and wherever I can. If I see them in a restaurant, on an airplane, anywhere at all, I make a point of thanking them. I don’t want to forget, ever, how many of them have fought and died, and continue to do so to this very day, so the rest of us can enjoy our freedom. I don’t want to forget that freedom is precious and hardwon, bought with blood, sweat, toil and tears.
Let us solemnly remember and reflect, not just today, but every day, that freedom is never free. Real, flesh-and-blood people preserve and defend rights too many of us take for granted. We can still vote as we choose, speak our minds, gather in groups, agree and disagree. We enjoy, even in these challenging times, a standard of living unheard of in much of the world.
We can go right on hating war–I know I do.
But let’s honor our troops. Let’s pray for them, appreciate them, and do them a good turn if we get the chance.
They’re all heroes and heroines, after all.