Reasoning with Madness
"This is a barbaric yawp, and it will be sounded over the roofs of the world."
This Veteran's Day, I first want to express my unending thanks to all the men and women who have served in the military past, present and future. Especially the veterans who were drafted, against their will, to fight a war they didn't want to fight, who died and killed against their will in past wars like Vietnam.
But what I really want to say is, “I'm sorry.” I'm sorry for the public backlash of the past generation for their protests against you, stepping off planes to crowds of angry chants and “baby killer” signs. Looking back, it's clear to me that that behavior was misguided and shameful. We should never protest the soldier coming home from a hellish nightmare that will never be fully understood, as if they were to blame for it. They didn't start the war, the politicians did. I'm sorry for that ugly reaction by people who thought they were doing the right thing with their protests, even though I was not even born yet.
For all the current soldiers who volunteered for duty to protect us from an Evil we didn't understand yet, only to be taken advantage of by corrupt, millionaire politicians in Washington, as we slowly learn what the current wars are really about. I'm sorry. The bait and switch that was used on a terrified people, under deceitful terms, who took advantage of your patriotism so that they could profit off you. I'm sorry. That they were and are willing to send you to die to make more money. I'm sorry. All the while not giving you the resources, the armor, the ammo you needed fighting their war, nor the support and rehabilitation you needed when you came home. I'm sorry. That they send you to war zones while they stay here, protecting their own sons and daughters from going to war. I'm sorry.
I'm sorry they lied to us all, and especially, to you.
I'm sorry for the horrors you have witnessed. I can't imagine them. I'm sorry for the damage you have endured, both physically, mentally and emotionally, fighting and killing other people who have no other choice but to fight and kill you back. I'm sorry for the Veteran's services that are severely lacking in our country when you return to a “normal” life. I'm ashamed of our politician's willing gusto to send you to war, but leave you for dead when you return home.
I'm sorry to the wives who have lost their husbands. To the husbands who have lost their wives. To the fathers who have lost sons and daughters and to the children who have lost their parents. To the cousins and uncles and aunts who never came home. On days like this, I am simply reminded of how many friends and family I have who have been scarred or killed by war. I'm sorry.
Like my Uncle Dan, who came home from Vietnam only to get a hellish cancer shortly after his return from his direct exposure to the Agent Orange his own military used against the enemy. I was just a kid when you died. I don't remember any parade in your name. I don't remember any celebration or anything like that. All I remember is your big bellow-y laugh and your massive gentle presence that's no longer here. I still look at that picture when you were still here with us all, your bald hulking presence profoundly missing from our lives to this day. I'm sorry for what happened to you, Uncle Dan. I miss you.
I'm sorry for the pain and sorrow we all feel knowing one of our own is somewhere else across the globe, maybe hunkered down in some death trap, trying to escape a firefight that might just finish them off for good. For the soldiers who come home mangled, amputated or in a flag-draped coffin, I'm so sorry.
And ultimately, I'm sorry that we as a species haven't evolved enough to understand that War is a Hellish Answer to anything, and maybe one day, we will understand this and we will find new methods for our disagreements and we will no longer fight any wars, ever again. All Wars are Civil Wars. We are all brothers and sisters. There is no They, there is no Other. There is only Us. We are One.
To anyone who has worn the uniform, especially those who have seen the Face of War, I salute you today.
You are a Hero to me.
And I'm so very sorry.
Who Am I?
I am Ahab.