Peace and War in the Heartland - Veterans Stories - A009


Sitting In The Sun On Veteran’s Day - A009

Yesterday, I attended the Veteran’s Day ceremonies in front of the State Capitol, since it’s not far from my house. I’ve attended some Veteran’s Day events here when the temperature was in single digits. Brrrr! This day was very nice and warm. At one point, I even found myself sitting on the ground with my back against a birch tree with the Sun warming me up and nearly putting me to nap. My favorite part of the ceremony is listening to the Central High School Band play all the patriotic songs. The kids remind me of why we served.

Every year, it seems, at least one veteran shows up the first time out of the veteran closet and each year it’s just about the same story. The guy has never really ever talked about his time in the service or in combat and so he has about thirty years of suppressed emotions to deal with. When the Vietnam Vets got discharged, for most of us, it was a time to not let anyone but your best friends and family know that you were a vet.

A lot of guys never did learn how to process, let alone recognize, their emotions. So, this guy, just like the guy from last year, had recently met a very nice woman who has made his life a lot better. Now that he’s 40-50 something, he actually can begin to realize just how valuable a loving woman can be in his life. She finds out that he’s a veteran and encourages him to attend the ceremonies. She even comes down with him for support, but she doesn’t tell him that. She tells him it’s something they can do together.

When the guy gets there, thirty-some years of trauma and tears come pouring out and the guy starts to think that he might be going insane. Then he looks in the eyes of another vet and finally realizes that he’s not alone. Tears well up in his eyes. He sobs and shakes with grief. I hold him until he settles down without saying anything. Then he starts talking and winds himself up again getting a bit maudlin asking, “Why did all those guys have to die?”

This guy has obviously never really spent any time thinking about wars and history and politics and economics and how they are all tied up together. So, I grab this guy by the shoulder and point my thumb at the high school kids who are playing something by John Philip Souza. I look him right in the eye and say, “Come on, guy, you know the answer to that! It’s so those kids can learn to play musical instruments”.

You can almost see the light go on in his head. The crying and shaking stop, he looks at the kids, takes a breath and says, “Oh yeah! That’s it, isn’t it?”

Semper Fi!



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