Tuesday, November 10, 2009

To the Veterans in My Life

This is my blog about being a young teacher, but today's post is really just about being young in the U.S. today. It is a different thing to grow up in a country at war than a country at peace. My generation is the bulk of the fighting force overseas, and my mom pointed out that I have seen more of my peers go to war than she ever saw of her's. This post is meant to be existential not political.

I have long believed that if there was any man in this world that I am most prone to fall in love with it would be a soldier. Courage is the virtue I admire most in anyone. I was raised by a Southern family. I was raised to admire soldiers and that has never worn off of me. I am only recently coming to see the sacrifice demanded. This is an honest post about Veterans I have known and do know. Thank you to those soldiers and families who make sacrifices.

Ty's Story
I met Ty when he was 13 and I was 14. He was a weird kid. The first thing he said to me was, “Look.” He held out his hand, as he said, that and his hand was covered with hundreds of pins woven through the outer layers of skin. I have to admit that there was something I really liked about him even then because he had the guts to be totally bizarre. Everyone at school hated him because he was this weird scrawny guy. I remember being surprised when he actually graduated from high school when I was a freshman in college. Ty was my good friend, though, in spite of our different circles at school.

After high school, Ty enlisted. He was still a scrawny kid. Between my going away to college and his overseas service (in Iraq), I didn’t see Ty for a year. The odd thing was that Ty became a celebrated soldier. When I saw him next, he was 19 and I was 20. He was so different. He wasn’t that oddball, scrawny kid anymore. He was a confident man. He made me seem like a little girl—I am sure I was compared to him at that point.

About a year later, Ty was in Iraq again and something happened. He watched his best friend die. He suddenly wanted out. He was calling his mom in tears and I distinctly remember my mom calling to tell me how worried his mom was.

Ty did get out since then. Actually, he got married. He’s been broken though, and every time I see him that is my first thought. Something in him was a casualty of this war, though he did not give his life. Where did that weird kid go to?

My Dad
I was in a military family when I was young. My mom has told me many times that the military years were the best years of her marriage. I remember more than she thinks, though, of Operation Desert Storm. I know that my Dad witnessed more than he could handle over there. I know he couldn’t sleep anymore. I was in kindergarten, but I remember the impact on him. I wonder if the sad path he went down was impacted by what he saw.

Jon's Story
My friend Jon grew up at my house much like a third brother. He struggled with his family and I guess our family was easier for him to be with. My mom helped him because he needed it. He actually married one of my friends from high school. He tried to be a family man with a normal job for his wife and two young daughters, he always wanted to be a soldier though.

He was in and out of college and every job under the sun. He couldn’t get it together. He joined the military about a year ago and has excelled. His wife told me her marriage is happier now and he is happier. He’s still in training because he is joining a very specialized force.

Things look so good for him, but he will be sent out after he finishes all this training. I wonder what will happen to him. I pray for him a lot.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on foreign policy or even psychology. I just know that a lot of idealistic boys leave war jaded, broken men. We should not forget them in our prayers and thoughts.



luckeyfrog said...

Don't forget the women.

One of my favorite books, Ellen Emerson White's The Road Home, and it chronicles the life of a Vietnam nurse, both while she serves and when she comes home and has to adjust. It's a brilliantly in depth character.

My cousin has faced similar things as well, which hurts not only him but also his family and friends. It makes you appreciate, doesn't it?

(Also I just discovered your blog and so... you might get a lot of comments from me. :)

ms.understood said...

You're very right about including women. I didn't realize I had only mentioned men in my post until I read your comment.

I loved Reading your dialogue w/my blog tonight. I wish you luck as you begin your teaching career!