I’m looking for a celebration more meaningful than a few lines on facebook about “ultimate sacrifice” and “saluting heroes.”

dadMy father enlisted in the army on January 6, 1945, his father on May 29, 1918.  My mother’s father enlisted on December 15, 1917.  I know this because I found their enlistment papers on ancestry.com.

What did any of these men do in their respective world wars?  Why did they join?  What did they see?  What were they like before the war and how did their time in the military change them?  

And how did what they saw, what they did, what they didn’t do or see trickle down to me?  

That information isn’t on ancestry.com and god knows they weren’t talking.  They’re long gone now, so it’s up to me to try to pan out and see the patterns.  Of course, it’s all just a wild guess.  A game.

It’s the pauses between notes that make the music.  Maybe it’s the secrets, everything  left unsaid that makes the life. 

As luck would have it, yesterday I read A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut whose experience as a POW in World War II led him to pen Slaughterhouse Five in 1968, decades after his experience.  

I think a lot of people, including me, clammed up when a civilian asked about battle, about war.  It was fashionable.  One of the most impressive ways to tell your war story is to refuse to tell it, you know.  Civilians would then have to imagine all kinds of deeds of derring-do. (p 20)

Still, I believe in noble intent, in idealism.  And I believe many people join the military to defend big ideas.  I think that’s honorable even though I come down on the side of Bono who said “their lives are bigger than any big idea.”

Since I went off the sertraline, now nine days ago, I find myself occasionally overcome with emotion.  I kid you not, I googled it and there is a term for this — EMOTIONAL INCONTINENCE.  (good god we have to pathologize everything.  maybe those clammed up veterans weren’t totally off-base)

Anyway, get your Soul Depends or whatever you need and listen to this story from today’s Morning Edition on NPR.  WWII soldiers known as Doolittle Raiders gather in Dayton every year.  Actually this was their last gathering.  

In 1959, officials in Tucson, Ariz., presented the Raiders with a set of 80 name-engraved, silver goblets. They’re kept in a velvet lined box, and after each year’s toast, the goblets of those who have died are turned upside down. Four remain upright.

Listen and feel, despite cynicism.  Honor and respect, despite imperfection and everything that will remain unsaid.  

5 thoughts on “11-11”

    1. Katie, thank you for the Veterans Day reminder. My dad enlisted in October 1944 and remained in the Army until November 1946. Lucky for me, I DO know why he enlisted and what he was thinking about during that time. After he was widowed in 2007 he filled his time with writing. He wrote a 40-page piece on his life in the military, complete with pictures. Now that he is gone I sometimes read some of his writing because I can hear his voice as I read and I find great comfort in that. I’ll have to review the military piece today 🙂

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