Today, in the United States, it is Armed Forces Day, a day "to pay tribute to the men and women who served in our Armed Forces."
It makes me sad and a little wistful when I think of this.
Because it makes me go back in time. Way back in time, to World War II, before I was born.
My father served in the Armed Forces in World War II. He was in his mid 20's when war broke out, and had originally been classified 4-F (not physically eligible for military service) when the draft was instituted in 1940. It may have been the fact that he couldn't hear well in one ear due to his hearing being partially destroyed by a childhood ear infection - that is what happened back before antibiotics were developed. Or maybe it was his heart murmur. Or the fact that he had a dependent - a younger brother he was helping to raise after his mother died in 1937.
By 1942, the draft boards weren't so picky. And his sister, also raising his younger brother, went into the WAVES ("Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service"), the women who served in the United States Navy during World War II. My father (I'm not sure if he was drafted or he enlisted, knowing he would be drafted - he was 28 by then) went into the United States Army-Air Force. He served in Arkansas, Mississippi, and in India as a military policeman, and later an airplane mechanic.
In India, a country he loved and always wanted to go back to to visit (he never made it), he suffered a head injury that left him suffering from seizures and other issues for the rest of his life. Because people didn't speak of these kind of disabilities, we, his family, suffered in silence. You just did the best you could if you were disabled. They didn't know much about treating head injuries in those days. I don't even know how the injury happened, and I didn't even know he had one until I was about eight years old. Because it just wasn't talked about. But believe me, the children of these vets knew something was wrong.
There was a curtain of silence and shame. And it was so wrong. It still is, today. Today, on Armed Forces Day, I want to shout from the rooftops: "Stop the Conspiracy of Silence". The one that makes our veterans jump through unknowable hoops to get the treatment they deserve. The job discrimination they (yes, like my father) still suffer.
I know the mothers of two veterans of the Iraq-Afghanistan war. Not everyone is "fine" when they come home. Some of these vets suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Others suffer from their physical injuries. There is nothing glamorous about war. Nothing heroic, when it comes right down to it.
War, as General Sherman once said, is hell.
I salute everyone who works with our disabled veterans, and, in a future post, will blog about a local woman who works with them. But so much more needs to be done.
My heart goes out to each and every veteran this Armed Forces Day. I won't say "thank you for your service" because that statement has become a cliche.
Instead I will say "Thank you for helping us stay free. Thank you for making us understand that the price of freedom is sometimes higher than any of us in the civilian world can imagine."
Do you have family in the military of any nation?