This is one of the holidays that pretty much passed me right by growing up. I think this was largely due to growing up overseas, where it wasn't a holiday for us. I don't think I was actually aware of Veteran's Day until I was in college. Maybe.
Even now it's hard for me to pay much attention to it. I know it's happening. People are blogging about it. And yet somehow it doesn't seem very real to me. Maybe that's partly because for most of us it's a Business As Usual sort of day.
My students, of course, are complaining bitterly that we even have school. I have a sneaking suspicion that this has more to do with the current CODMW2 virus sweeping through the male population than a true desire to honor those who have served our country in the military. I suppose the military nature of that game counts for something.
(I don't think so either.)
When I read Arby's post today, however, it suddenly occured to me that it's kind of odd that Veterans' Day and Memorial Day don't have more significance for me than they do. After all, there are three veterans in my close extended family. My maternal grandfather served in the Merchant Marines during WWII. My father's almost-Irish-twin older brother served in military Intelligence during Vietnam. My father's second sister's husband also served in Vietnam.
I don't remember ever hearing any stories.
And I don't quite know why.
Well, I'll take that back, partially. My uncle-by-marriage is a quiet man and one with whom I haven't spent much time in my life. It isn't particularly surprising that I haven't heard his stories, if he tells any. My uncle-by-blood...well, I know he doesn't tell those stories. First, he was in Intelligence. He isn't allowed to tell many stories. Second, I've been told he came back from Vietnam....changed. He was not the same man who left. Whatever it is he did, whatever it is he saw, whatever it is he knew and still knows, it haunted him. It may very well haunt him to this day. He came back a man with ghosts, a man who no longer seemed to believe in a loving God--or possibly a God at all.
I only see the laughing uncle who tells crazy stories about childhood, the ones that my dad claims he can't remember because all his older brothers and sisters scarred him for life. You know, by talking him into picking up rats by the tails out by the corncribs so they could take turns whaling away with bats (on the rats.) I think he just doesn't want to admit he was that
Who my uncle is right now? I don't really know.
What makes me wonder is why I haven't heard stories from my grandfather. He is, after all, the grandfather with whom I grew up. He was as much a part of my childhood as were my parents, really. He's referenced it upon occasion, but I know very, very little about what he did or even for how long. In fact, I very easily forget that he was even part of the MM at all. I know all sorts of other stories from his life. Just not those years.
And now...now I am mostly aware of Veterans' Day because I have former students in the military. I have a former student, one of My Boys, who died in Iraq. I have a former student in the Air Force who just dropped by to see me on Monday, because he wanted to introduce me to his fiancee, a lovely girl who also wants to be an English teacher. I have various others as well, some still in contact, others of whom I am vaguely aware.
I am, for the most part, a pacifist. I do not believe that war is a solution. I do not think we should be at war in Iraq. I am conflicted over the war in Afghanistan. I believe that the vast majority of wars are started for horrific reasons and result in horror rather than true peace. However, I am a practical pacifist in that I understand that there are times when war cannot be avoided or can be a necessity.
That being said, I DO believe in supporting our troops. I do not see the warriors as evil: I see war as evil. Does that make sense?
Maybe not. But then, I have never been good at making people very happy with my political views (or religious or social or...) I'm a girl who sees mostly in shades of Grey. I've never been good at the whole Black/White thing.
So maybe, today, I should stick to Red.