Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

On memorial day we honor the courage it takes to fight for your country and die for her. Today we honor the courage it takes to come home.

On July 20th, a friend posted an entry about a captured Marine. Here's the excerpt that's most relevant to my reply:

So what's the big deal now? I am being a bad person; I am reacting to something differently because it hits home a little, something that irritates the crap out of me when others do it, ,and I am holding myself to task for it. My daughter is very serious about a young man who is a Marine, who deployed on his SECOND duty out in Iraq/Afghanistan. All I know is he has something to do with Operation Leatherneck (Google it).

So I read in the news that once again, the Taliban has captured another young American soldier and is parading him around on videos (posted below). I don't know him, any more than I knew the dozens before him. But with K deployed in that area, and the Marines being sent in first into uncontrolled territory, suddenly I personalize this stuff; I see him in the video. It is an understandable reaction, but why is it worse when it is in our backyard? Why aren't we upset for every death? Is this a form of hypocrisy, or a form of coping, for if we stopped to mourn every single soldier as if he were ours, the country would shut down.

Are you going to turn your heads and scroll by because you don't care, because you don't know him, because you can't afford to and still function? What is the right thing to do here? We may not all agree. I am torn. But I needed to vent about this.

At the time, I requested my reply remain screened. But time has passed and today seems like a good day to share it. This was my response:

For me the war was something I thought we never should have gotten involved in to begin with but that, once started, we needed to stop screwing up, follow through on, and finish. For the most part, though, I avoided following it and thinking about it. Because it wasn't something that really affected me, but, more than that, it wasn't something I could affect.

Then I fell in love with a soldier. By the time we got involved he was already home and a civilian again. But he's still got two more years before those who care about him can breathe a sigh of relief that he won't get called back. And all the memories are painfully fresh in his mind. I've watched him go stiff when fireworks went off unexpectedly. I've talked him down when thunder crashed in an unexpected way. And I've listened to him as he's told me in an eerily dispassionate voice about the people who died under his hands (he was a medic).

And suddenly stories about the war matter. Because but for the grace of G-d, that could have been my soldier. If he'd still been there, if it had happened earlier. And living with the pain of the trauma and memories he brought home, how can I hope to compare to the suffering of those who are living through it while their loved ones are still there? I know how much I ache knowing about the things he survived. How much more must they suffer knowing what their soldiers may yet not?

Was it wrong of me not to know, follow, grieve before? I don't think so. I cannot cry for every soldier and the country gains little if I do. But I can cry for my soldier, and for the parents, sibling and children I know. Because my soldier still can't cry for himself. And the tears of someone who doesn't really get it never mean as much as the sympathy of someone who does (even second hand).

There are many things broken and breaking about our country and the world around us. If we all cared about all of them all of the time we'd spend so much time grieving we'd never be able to fix or accomplish anything. So we care about the things that affect us or that we can affect. It limits our scope into something manageable and allows us to actually make a difference. Even if it's as small as crying for someone who didn't realize he needed tears.

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