I usually keep the spirit of veterans day and memorial day to myself, taking quiet, reserved pride and giving thanks for the nation I have been born to. I give thanks for those who’ve given their lives for the freedom I enjoy daily and often take for granted. For no specific reason, I can imagine living in a police state or in a country ruled by tyranny. That kind of reality has never been difficult for my imagination to behold. Being able to conjure that reality keeps me grateful and appreciate the reality I live in, that of liberty and freedom. For no specific reason, this veterans day I’ve begun to more closely imagine the reality our Grandfathers endured, that of world War II. I find that history to form a mirror for our current generation.
My wife reminded me of her Grandfather’s story. He was a pilot. He was shot down, crashed nehind enemy lines. A Dutchman helped hide by giving him a german nazi uniform and pretending to be a drunken german. It worked. He was never captured. He finished his tour of duty and went on the raise the family that has resulted in mine. Her other Grandfather served in the Navy and bore witness to several aweful situations in the Pacific. My Grandfather served under Patton. He liberated concentration camps. He commanded scores of troops as a captain. His experiences left him scarred to the spirit. I never met him in life but I believe that though he physically survived the War, he never spiritually survived that which he witnessed. It seems no one in their generation emerged untouched from that era.
My father has compiled volumes of family history these past years. Each branch of my family tree saw many members who fought in the Revolutionary War and the Civil war and fought in the War of 1812. Somehow the tradition of military service had passed over my own generation. My father was not drafted and I have never felt a pull toward the military nor a calling towards combat. I serve my community in different ways but not in the way my Grandfathers did. I have seen several documentaries this veterans season and somehow the stories speak to me differently this year.
We’ve seen two wars. One has lasted ten years now. Another has finally ended. I prayed after the towers fell that we, as a people might realize that violence begats violence, war only brings death and destruction. I prayed we could imagine a different way to communicate our differences than by fire and metal and death. Instead, we are passing through a generation like that of our Grandfathers but without a moral imperative and with incredible imbedded evil and corruption. I see a poisoned generation of men and women. They volunteered to risk their lives for their people and have found disenchantment and confusion.
I am proud of our military but it seems our people have still not learned the lessons of war. We care poorly for warriors once the battle is over. We seem to foster hatred just as efficienlty as our percieved enemy. Our own leaders have hidden the cost a people must pay and asked us instead to help perpetuated the myth of excess. This generation is so full of double standards, confusion and hypocracy that it is impossible to see clear truth in the narrative of this history.
Like every generation of Grandfathers before us, I wonder what will become of our future if these lessons are not learned. I believe we honor our Grandfathers on these days but we fail their dignify their sacrifice by perpetuating mistakes. Thanks be to those who are willing and fit to give their lives for the people. There will never be a reason the willing may rest not the volunteer be at peace. Amen and Thank you