A lot of my blogs are about conversations that began on a social networking site and were continued in private emails and chats. Often it is a question or comment that sticks with me and I’m either unable to formulate an answer at the time or it’s something that just continues to bother me. Recently, I commented that I was happy we’d managed an entire month (August) without a single American death in Iraq. This was the first full month since 2003 that we’d not lost an American in that country. I also stated that I was looking forward to the day when that damn airplane didn’t land at Dover with flag draped boxes.
I received several private emails about that comment. There appears to be a little confusion about my warrior persona versus my desire to see the war end. One person asked that if I was anti-war then how could I be so supportive of sending the people I know off to war?
It’s the first time that anyone has ever referred to me as anti-war.
This is my truth:
#1 – War is inevitable. There will always be some nimrod that doesn’t get the concept that the world would be a better place if we all got along and worked together.
#2 – Young people will die and many more will be wounded in war.
#3 – No one hates war more than a person who has dealt with the damage done by it.
#4 – Many of my chosen family are warriors. I send my brothers and sisters off to do what they have to do with all the love and support I can give them. Yes, I still have friends that are serving. This isn’t 1967 and there is no draft. My friends are people that have made an informed decision to join the military. They aren’t naïve or foolish, and they’ve been around long enough to know that they are not immortal. I’m incredibly proud to know these people and I respect their choices.
#5 – I’ll be here for my friends when they come home – no matter what condition that may be in. Ready to listen and ready to accept the inevitable changes that will have occurred to those that have dealt with the pain that war brings. They are my chosen family – I won’t abandon them.
There is no greater reality check about the cost of war than to go sit in the lobby of the VA hospital these days. It used to be that the young guys were the Vietnam vets – the youngest of them are now in their late fifties. A little over a week ago, I arrived for my appointment at the VA only to have a very young man attempt to sit down across from me. By young, I mean that this kid didn’t even look old enough to be out of high school. He was struggling to manage his ID card, the clipboard full of inevitable questions, a pen, his hat (which he’d removed), sunglasses, and a bottle of water. He was doing this with two hands that were both missing most of the fingers, and one was missing most of the thumb. As he sat down, he lost his grip on the clipboard and everything went everywhere.
I picked up his sunglasses when then landed on my foot. But the real help came from an older man in the chair next to him. The older vet did it with a grin and the comment, “Shit, kid. Been there, done that. Let me lend you a hook.” He had one hand that looked about the same as the younger man’s and his other hand had been replaced with the old-fashioned two-prong hook. He picked up the water bottle with his hand and used his hook to pick up the pen that had rolled away. The kid was obviously embarrassed as he thanked us and tried to get his things sorted out. He told the older man that he was still getting used to not having enough grip, but he wasn’t about to wear some damn bag to carry everything. The older man suggested that he wear pants with cargo pockets and never button them. He also told the young vet not to sweat the small stuff; in another couple months, he’ll have figured out how to do everything he really wants to do.
The older vet was wearing a ball cap that stated he was a veteran of the Korean War. Apparently, the divisional information on the hat meant something to the younger man and the two began comparing unit information and talking about how little the Army has changed in some things. While their wars are more than fifty years apart, Korea and Afghanistan appear to have a lot in common these days.
I don’t like war. I don’t want war. I don’t want young people to die and I sure as hell don’t want to see kids that aren’t old enough to have a beer sitting in my VA hospital. Nevertheless, this is the world that I live in. The acceptance of these truths on my part is a result of a life spent among men and women who chose to be professional Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. It takes courage to do the job that my friends choose to do. I like to believe that we all support the choices of the men and women that serve. And, I absolutely believe that every one of us who prays does pray for a day when there are no more warriors returned home in flag draped boxes.
The bottom line is that I am anti-war, but I’ll never be anti-warrior.