42. The Other Veterans

300px-USMA_Color_Guard_on_ParadeVeteran’s Day is tomorrow, but I have three more posts on the subject, so this is coming early.

I am an American; I vote. During my nearly thirty year career as a school teacher, I always went to the polls early and wore my ”I have voted, have you?” sticker throughout the day. Children would ask me, “Who did you vote for?” I never told them. Sometimes they would ask me, “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?” I never told them.

Teachers have a responsibility to be involved and have political opinions, because they are citizens. But they also have a responsibility to avoid shoving those opinions down the throats of their captive audience.

I am one of the other veterans, the ones who went, did their job, and moved on. I don’t march in parades. I love America, but I still have a love/hate relationship with the flag. It stands for aspirations toward universal freedom, and when I think of it like that, I love it. But it also stands for the darkest of horrors.

I went into service in 1971 because my draft number was 41.

Heinlein said slavery is not made more appealing by calling it Selective Service. I agree, mostly; however conscription levels the field. Without conscription, the white and the rich would not have protested so loudly as they (we) did, and the Viet Nam war would have gone on much longer.

During my last year in college I signed up for a term in the Peace Corps. My wife and I were going to Mysore (a state in India, since renamed Karnataka) to teach horticulture. It was a good fit, since I was an anthropology major specializing in South Asia, and a farmer’s kid. It was also a chance to learn an Indian language beyond my college Hindi, and get a taste of fieldwork before I committed myself to a Ph D. program.

Then Nixon did away with the Peace Corps deferment. The Marines were drafting, so I joined the Navy. I wasn’t trying to avoid death; I was young enough to foolishly assume I wouldn’t get killed. I just didn’t want to shoot anyone who was defending his homeland in a war that never should have started.

Four years later I was a civilian again, the Viet Nam war was over, and the general opinion had shifted. Most Americans had come to realize that the war was a mistake.

Thirty years later Bush Two sent troops in to find weapons of mass destruction that never existed, as if we had learned nothing.

I am a veteran; I believe in defending my country against real enemies. But when I see starry eyed children who can’t wait for their chance to plunge into battle – well, pardon my lack of enthusiasm.


2 thoughts on “42. The Other Veterans

  1. sterling9821

    Well spoken by someone who has been there. I would lay down my life in defense of my nation and its people against any real threat. Ultra patriotism is a bandwagon I wont ride. Id rather be the rational voice in the storm no one listens to. I’m glad all my friends who served came home or retired. Interestingly, none would have served again knowing now how they were used. I never had the chance, so I don’t know personally.

    On this day, [ok, yesterday] Thank you for your service.



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