Saying “Happy Veterans Day!” seems weird to me. The “Happy” part, that is. I mean, I’m quite happy that these folks came back. I’m happy that I have my freedom. But this sort of holiday seems like more of a remembrance-type occasion and less of a celebration, no? I’m not saying it’s a completely solemn day. Veterans Day parades are great. But tacking the word “Happy” onto the name of a holiday doesn’t always work for me.
Last night I found a scanned photo of Dad in his Marine Corps uniform. He is certainly no older than 18, but he looks about 15. He claims he enlisted because his recruiter promised him and his friend they wouldn’t even see any action. Dad is not a gullible man; this recruiter must have been something else. Perhaps he told him that the war was almost over; by the time he left boot camp there’d be nowhere to send him. Who knows?
When I was 18, I made cherry limeades at the Sonic for a living. My biggest worry was moving away to college in the fall. I remember panicking when I realized the amount of crap I’d have to bring with me. Little stuff, like staples. I’d have to pack my own staples. God forbid if I ran out of paper clips. How many paper clips should I pack?
I knew a guy my age who went to Iraq and came back an absolute mess. He was completely bonkers. His mind was terribly damaged, and it was heartbreaking. This is the same story my parents tell about friends they knew. Just sad, sad stuff. It’s strange to share that kind of experience with them, but my children surely will share these experiences with me. Also sad stuff.
So maybe not a happy Veterans Day, but a meaningful one, to those who have not served.
And a peaceful one to those who have.