Sunday, November 11, 2012

All it Takes

Thoughts on Veteran's Day:

We remember the warriors and celebrate their service. It's about manhood, bravery, and of course sacrifice. It's about all of us. We are all veterans, and every life is made of campaigns. You win some and lose some and the thing is to never give up. In Spanish, darse por vencido, to give yourself over as conquered, has more resonance. I remember the Celts, who would go into battle naked and prefer death to slavery. Then there are some veterans of wars that have forged the Republic we are lucky to live in, after the war there is nothing left. You can see it in their eyes, the hollow look of having nothing left to give, to live for. War can do that, life can do that. I've seen photos, old prints of my great-great grandfather, a Civil War vet, drummer boy of the NY 166th Volunteers. After the war he tried farming in Ohio and failed. Then he came back and lived in Albany and sold kitchen appliances door-to-door. He was married and had four children. In the old photograph, he is posed with his wife and you can see he has no faith in the enterprise; there is no direction in his eyes. God knows what horrors he had witnessed as a 15-year old underaged so-called volunteer. His wife kept him going. One look at the photograph and the life story is there. The aimlessness of the veteran who gave up. Sometimes you can win the war and lose the battle. We don't talk about it enough, the veterans living with psychic wounds that do not heal. We all need something to live for. Today on Veteran's Day, give a veteran something good, a reason to live for. All it takes is a word, a look, a hug. Because one beaten down vet is a defeat for all of us.
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