Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thanks for your service....

I was telling someone what I was going to do with Veteran's Day this year. It's the same thing I do every year. I spend the day pretty much by myself playing music from the sixties--at very high volume.

"It's my day," I said, as I always say. "I earned it."

She figured out, at that point, that I was in the military and she said, "Oh, thank you for your service."

A puff of wind would have knocked me over. No one ever said that to me, before, although I know it's become quite the fashion.

"Thank you for your service."

I just smiled and nodded and went on my way.

What do I say to that?

I don't consider it an unresolved issue, having been in the military. I don't take any kind of pride in it, although I do have some fun with it once in a while when people ask, rhetorically, incredulously, "You were a sergeant in the Marine Corps?"

I get a shove, though, out of telling people that there really is such a thing as an ex-Marine and I don't even keep track of the date of the Marine Corps birthday, any more. (this year I found out by accident that it was on the same day as Veteran's Day. Three cheers, two hurrahs and a bravo). But I do have some memorabilia...

I have exploited the fact of my service in various anti war, anti draft and anti imperialism contexts, over the years. But I don't bring it up, anymore

It's only an unresolved issue for me when I think about it too much. It was a miserable time in my life, but it was a significant part of process of my spiritual development. My first contact with Friends was about six months from the end of my enlistment when I was seriously thinking about deserting and going to Canada. I got some clearness and stuck it out, resolved to so something with (or perhaps because of) those three years.

John Irving wrote (I think it was in Cider House Rules) "What have you learned that is constructive from all of this despair?" It's been an abiding question, with me, one I have asked myself over the years when I was on the brink of being overwhelmed.

It's actually what I am asking myself every year (actually twice a year; Veteran's Day and Memorial Day--both of our national commercials for war) when I am holed up with my music and my memories. I have more in the way of answers to that query than I could ever write in a blog.

I am in Washington D.C. a time or two every year on business and I always go by The Wall. I do it, now, in the very early morning because I always end up crying. I don't know why. I just stand there and bawl. I don't know who or what I am crying about, I just cry. I went one time with my daughter's eighth grade class and I slipped away from the group to make my visit. I must have stayed longer than I thought because, through my tears, I became aware of someone standing next to me. It was my daugher, who had left the group to find and stand with me. She taught me, at The Wall, another one of those things I have learned that is constructive from all this despair.

Thank you for your service...


Nancy A said...

There is so much suffering in this post!

Ah, but will they build a second wall, now, for Iraq?

And another? And another?

GMC said...

Timothy- Thanks for your service!
I'm writting thru tears as I think
about the wall. I know that I can't
visit without sheading tears.

I feel in your post some of the conflicts
that I feel with our two holidays. I came
to the Quakers about fifteen years after
I was discharged. Durring my time in
Vietnam, I would have been as happy to
shoot, a Quaker as a V.C.. Things have
changed for me now, I have loyalties
in both camps.

I have friends from that time that are
as close as family. They have no
understanding how I can hang around
with Quakers, but like family,they
love me anyway.

Quakers reaction to me is kinda like
the general public, most don't know,
don't care other than an idle curiosity.
I have found over the years that I lack
the language ability and common experiances to
talk to people about military matters.

This Veterans day I felt alone at a
military event and at a Quaker event. I
believe that you may have the best idea
of how a Quaker with military experiance
should spend these holidays.