Wednesday, November 19, 2008

War and what I remember

I was a very small child in the last days of WWII. My brother Ray had joined the U.S. Navy and I remember him coming home in his sailor uniform, dark blue bell-bottom pants and shirt. He wore a white sailor hat, and I thought he was the most handsome man in the world.

I remember seeing his white hat through the little window at the top of our front door as I sat in my brother, Max's lap. I can still feel the happiness flooding the room as everyone realized our brother was home. We never knew when he would appear at the door.

Mother made a fuss over Ray's homecoming. She cooked special desserts and food she knew he'd been missing. We all celebrated until time for him to leave on Sunday. One of my brothers drove him to the highway about three miles from our house. We waited in the car. He crossed over and stood beside the black asphalt. Alone with his duffle bag on the ground beside him, he lifted his arm and stuck out his thumb. It was never more than a few minutes before a car stopped, blocking Ray from our view. The car pulled away and like magic, he was gone. None of us in our car spoke on the way home.

Although I was too young to understand war, I feared that every time he left, I'd never see him again. I knew he was preparing to go to a dangerous place. I didn't hear my parents or other members of the family voice this fear. It was just a feeling hanging in the air in our house, like an invisible smog we breathed.

When I think about the young men and women in Iraq and other warring nations in the world today, I remember that fear. For every soldier, sailor or marine serving in the military, a family, a mother, lives with that fear that I remember even today.

The war ended before my brother was deployed overseas. Two of my cousins died in military plane crashes but not in combat. One of them, my mother's brothers son, Henry, fathered a boy born after his death.

I saw the grief, first hand, of Henry's parents. So many tears, and such suffering.
I believe Richard Argo has the right idea about Veterans Day.


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