Between the crosses, row on row

Mustang Bobby gives thanks for veterans today, and brings the John McCrae. Go read.

My cousins shipped out for Gulf War I on Christmas Eve, and I remember my little brother asking me if our dad would have to go to war, too. I remember my dad, who rarely talks about politics, muttering darkly about presidential warmongering and Lyndon Johnson. I was in high school then, and didn’t pay a lot of attention to world affairs. I thought jokes about Saddam Hussein were hilarious, and put up flags and yellow ribbons on our lawn, but I didn’t really understand what was happening. I missed my cousins at Christmas Eve dinner.

This morning the local teenybopper station did something pretty nice: They invited family members of veterans to call in and leave messages for their loved ones serving overseas. Young men told their brothers, in voices high and frightened, to kick some ass. Young women, including one who sounded about 12 but said she was 20 and six months pregnant, told their fiancees and boyfriends and husbands and fathers to come home, that they need you here, please come home safe. And moms, and God this was hard to hear, moms told their sons and daughters they missed them. The airhead hosts were crying and trying not to let on that they were. One of them said, “I don’t know anybody in the military, but all of you do. We should think about them more often.”

Tomorrow, they’ll go back to Ashlee Simpson and Britney Spears, no doubt. We have the collective attention span of gnats in this country, and nothing demonstrates that more than our need to designate days to honor veterans, days to honor those who truly do speak about their work in terms of service. We shouldn’t need a day for it, but if a day is what it takes, then let’s take a day, today.

I think all those “We support the troops” stickers bother me sometimes because saying thank you for something implies that you wanted it. I didn’t want this war, or any war. But I may someday, I do, need the protection others are so willing to provide, no matter how politicians will manipulate that generosity for less than worthy ends. So thank you, Dwayne and Anne, for all that you did for me, before I understood exactly what it meant.

A.