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Veterans Day

Day 38

I wrote this five years ago. I remember the day I left home, the first day alone, away from family and immersed in a world I knew nothing about. It is a wake-up call.

It starts with a tearful goodbye and a lonely car, bus or plane ride. It is filled with questioning – am I doing the right thing, will I be missed, and will I come home? Images of family, friends and children you don’t even know come into your mind – even those in countries you cannot even imagine. The decision to serve your country is not an easy one. It holds a promise of a better life even though many never live to see it. It is a life where fear is cloaked with hope. A soldier doesn’t question; they depend on the patriots at home to keep the government accountable. They answer the call again with every waking day. I am forever grateful for the experience and am haunted by the lives lost – both mentally and physically. I will never forget our graduation day when some of my classmates were still being called into service. I hope we don’t forget those whose choice was made for them. On this day, I honor all who started their day with that tearful goodbye and the families that are forever changed by one young person’s decision to serve.

Going to war is something I cannot imagine. I was spared that horror. I also grew up in the time of the drafts when young men were pulled by lottery to serve. The current generations do not know our understand that fear. I lost one friend in Vietnam. He was deemed a hero because he sacrificed his life to save his fellow soldiers.

This Rod McKuen poem touches much of how I feel about war and the unimaginable horrors our soldiers face. There is nothing glamorous about war.

Soldiers who wanna be
Heroes number practically zero
But there are millions
Who wanna be civilians

Come and take my eldest son
Show him how to shoot a gun
Wipe his eyes if he starts to cry
When the bullets fly

Give him a rifle, take his hoe
Show him a field where he can go
To lay his body down and die
Without asking why

Soldiers who wanna be
Heroes number practically zero
But there are millions
Who wanna be civilians

Sticks and stones can break your bones
Even names can hurt you
But the thing that hurts the most
Is when a man deserts you

Don’t you think it’s time to weed
The leaders that no longer lead
From the people of the land
Who’d like to see their sons again?

Soldiers who wanna be heroes
Number practically zero
But there are millions
Who wanna be civilians

God, if men could only see
The lessons taught by history
That all the singers of this song
Cannot right a single wrong

Let all men of good will
Stay in the fields they have to till
Feed the mouths they have to fill
And cast away their arms

Soldiers who wanna be
Heroes number practically zero
But there are millions
Who wanna be civilians

Rod McKuen

To those who served and those who sacrificed, I honor you. Not the fight, not the war, the men and women who put country before everything.