Will Peace Come Soon For Our Veterans?

On the last day of the first real writing class I ever took, we had an off-site dinner and reading of each other's final literary projects. Everyone relaxed as they ate and began sharing tidbits of their lives. One of my classmates, a guy who'd been friendly enough but always seemed a bit, for a lack of a better word, weird, told us he'd just returned from Iraq.

Several people in the room were visibly surprised by this news. And then he went on to tell us that he was living in a van parked along Venice Beach. He kept clean by bathing in the Pacific Ocean every day.

He told us all this in an incredibly matter-of-fact manner, but his eyes hinted at other emotions. Perhaps he needed that air of nonchalance, of detachment to distance himself from the memories of what he'd seen and experienced.

I always wondered what happened to that veteran. Every Saturday morning when I jog along the Venice Boardwalk, I wonder if he ever stopped living in that van parked along the beach.

It's easy to think of veterans as merely being the old, grizzled guys who'd march with pride during the parades I attended as a child. But today's veterans are those guys and they're young guys. And they're women.

It's also easy to think of veterans as being white because it's what we see on film.

Actually, so many veterans are black, Latino, Asian and a myriad other ethnicities. The guy who shared his story with us that night was Asian. Sometimes I wonder how much his racial identity impacted the surprise of others in the room that he was a veteran.

My sister and brother-in-law are both veterans. Neither are living in vans along the beach, but they are undoubtedly impacted by their military experience. My husband almost joined the military after high school but was discouraged by some NOI guys he knew. He always talks about the tactics the recruiter used to get him to join.

"What are you gonna do? You have no prospects, no future. What are you gonna do? Live in your momma's house forever? Grow up and be a man! Make something of yourself."

It's hard for young people to resist such a hard sell.

I may disagree with their recruiting methods, but I am still grateful for our veterans. Very much so. But on this day when my sons are admiring the WWII medals of their father's grandfather, I find myself wishing that no veterans ever had to exist. I hope they know they aren't forgotten by those of us who have never had to wield a gun, ride in a tank or avoid land mines.

I'm saying a prayer for them. I pray that peace comes soon.


Anonymous said…
At the local high shcool, they took the vocational students to a "job fair" that turned out to be all military recruiting. Fed them candy and propaganda. Criminal. I pray for peace, too.
thailandchani said…
That's probably why they banned millitary recruiters (along with the CIA) at the campus where I attended college. They're not known for telling the truth.

Hoping for peace... yes.

DJ Black Adam said…
I pray for our troops and our veterans.

One of my main concerns about McCain and one of the main reasons I didn't vote for him was because he opposed the last veterans bill increase.

I can't abide those politicans who say support the troops and cut them off at the knees in any other way...
the last noel said…
You brougt back very sad memories. Peace to our vets.
beautiful post Liz. I'm hoping for peace too.
j'taimee said…
My brother-in-law returns to Iraq for a fourth tour of duty, soon. I pray for the veterans, and I pray for those still living that reality....
Anonymous said…
It's good that there are people prepared to do the dirty work of joining armies and going into combat on behalf of the rest of us. But it makes me so angry that they are often drafted into pointless wars and actions that should never have been started. Also that they then either come back dead or with serious physical and mental conditions that don't get properly treated and they become second class citizens.
David Sullivan said…
Vets are the most underappreciated people. It pisses me off that we would put any of our soldiers in harms way unless it was absolutely imperative to our country's freedom. That's why I oppose going into Iraq in the first place. Our soldiers follow orders to the T and will do whatever our leaders tell them which makes them great soldiers and great men. Our leaders must make the right decisions to maintain our soldiers honor and to honor their sacrifice.
Anonymous said…
Although I don't agree with all the things our military and government do I was thankful to join the military. It gave me an opportunity when at the time I really had no other. It gave me some of the self confidence and discipline I desperately needed. So on this day and every day I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free and I'd gladly stand up next to the soldiers fighting today and defend this country.
nikki said…
i too wish we didn't have the need for soldiers who become discarded vets once they return to the states. i've always found it upsetting that the dead are always more appreciated than then ones who came back alive...the ones who, because they aren't conveniently dead, are forced to live in vans on the beach.
Liz Dwyer said…
That is absolutely criminal to do that to those kids. It shouldn't be allowed. I hope parents protested.

I think they should be banned from high school campuses. I know a few folks who were ROTC in college because they needed the money to pay for school. I always wonder how that turned out for them.

And McCain should've known better, should've known that he had an even greater responsiblity to advocate for vets. What a shame.

That guy saying that has always stuck with me. It is a sad memory for sure.

I'm really hoping and praying for it. We're all a part of the peace puzzle and can do our part in our personal lives, but on a macro level, gosh, hurry up and come!

Oh, I am praying for you all. Fourth tour of duty? Wow.

The physical and mental conditions that folks come home with are definitely not given the proper care that they should. It goes back to the classic question of why do we pay entertainers so much but teachers so little... and soldiers even less?

It's so corny of me but I always think of one of those scenes in movies when all the soldiers know they're gonna die but they go ahead and fight anyway because they know they're fighting for a just cause. I wonder how you get that same drive when the cause is unjust and amoral?

I'm just glad you came home safe and sound. You're awesome.

It is strange how there sometimes seems to be more appreciation for our soldiers when they come home in caskets instead of coming home alive. Our priorities are so out of whack.
Anonymous said…
Ditto that. It's a very mixed holiday for me. How do you support and protest at the same time?

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