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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Patriots with broken thumbs

I was questioning my own patriotism. I wasn't sure a red-blooded American would've had a spinach fish wrap for lunch on Veterans Day. Yet, as planes flew overhead and the small town parade inched its way down the main drag, that was what sat in my stomach. The least I could've done was have a meal with red meat in it. Maybe a rare burger or something. And I called myself an American.

Sated, though, I stood on the sidewalk and watch the parade pass by. Grizzled Vietnam vets rode on Harleys. World War II soldiers sat in the back of convertibles. Girl Scouts walked to their cadence. Each passing group got a round of deserved applause as it passed. I stood with my back against a storefront and thought about my friends. One of them drove humvees through rainstorms of gunfire. Another, a doctor, is there saving lives. One good buddy is on his way back to Iraq for yet another in an endless series of increasingly dangerous tours.

A high school marching band played "Tequila" and I thought about how I could use a shot myself. I wondered about my dad's buddies. They were Vietnam-era fighters. One drank, the other did not. In more than 30 years of knowing them, I never once heard them talk about their time during the war. There was a time I thought about asking. Now I know that people are quiet for a reason.

A few weeks before, I had taken my son on a hike through the woods. It was a tricky trail, tangled with tree roots and jutting rocks. My son is three and I have eleven lifetimes on him. Neither of us had an easy time standing up. Along the way, we passed a man who could not have been younger than 85. He and his wife moved slowly along the trail. I wondered how they could manage the hike. We stopped to talk and I noticed the man's cap. He was a veteran, as well. He didn't talk about his service and I didn't ask. Instead, he complimented me on getting my boy outdoors. As we walked away, the old man called, "Keep that boy in the woods!"

The parade was nearing its end when a group passed by on foot. The group was made up of of young and old, male and female, and just about every other descriptor you could come up with. They held signs that read, "Support the troops. End the War."

I nodded to myself as I heard applause begin to rise from the streetside crowd. I was impressed and held a moment of hope that we were all going to be okay. I pushed myself off the wall and headed farther onto the sidewalk. That's when I saw the 70-something lady a few feet away. She was waving? No, her hand was in the air in motion that is almost universally known to mean, "Get the hell out."

"Grandma's a war hawk," I muttered and started walking back up, almost in step with the "Support the Troops" group. I hadn't walked a block before I saw another lady--this one closer to 60--literally standing on her chair at a corner restaurant. Her hand was in the air and jerking. Her thumb was pointed toward the sidewalk. That is how some people recognize and honor our veterans. They boo the people who want the war to end.

The parade wasn't over, but I saw little reason to stay longer. I turned and walked down a side street. If supporting the troops and wishing for an end to war is a reason to boo, I am obviously in the wrong place.



Anonymous city girl said...

Yeah Otis-
I feel your dismay. At my last music festival I picked up a new bumper sticker. It says, "Teach Peace". Isn't that what it's really all about?

9:14 PM  
Blogger MGM said...

It's unfortunate that we find ourselves with really good reasons to have to resort to things like war. Sometimes, when we are backed into the corner, fighting for it is the only way to preserve America.

10:59 PM  
Blogger DrChako said...

Speaking as a doctor in Iraq saving lives, I can totally get behind the sentiment, "Support the troops. End the War." I took a quick straw poll of my fellow soldiers. We are all in agreement on this.

I'm proud to serve and I'm proud to be here. Serving with my fellow soldiers is an honor. We'd all like to see an end to this. I'm here with people on their 4th deployment. One guy just got an award for hitting the two year mark (continuous). He got here in 2005 and he'll be here for 1000 days before he leaves.

Unlike Vietnam, I WANT to talk about the things I've seen. I want to tell my family and friends. I just can't right now.

That's why they made scotch. I hear there is a pretty good place to get some in Vegas...

-Dr. Chako

5:07 AM  
Anonymous City Girl said...

Dr. Chako-
I hold that sentiment too. I will always support our troops. It huts my heart though that we live in a country that would risk the lives of our sons and husbands and fathers (daughters, wives and mothers) for a cause whose purpose shifts like the winds. I believe our president has misguided us for his own personal cause.

I pray for the safety and return of all those serving. I commend your courage.

12:14 PM  
Blogger golden said...

I too am a veteran and I too don't talk about it much. I cool with the Support The Troops End The War mantra.

It doesn't threaten me or my friends in the least. Us military folks like to be under employeed. We prefer it that way.

8:47 PM  
Anonymous KenP said...

"One good buddy is on his way back to Iraq for yet another in an endless series of increasingly dangerous tours."

I am really trying to avoid taking a position here. Lord knows we've screwed up left and right over this 'war' and to a man we seem to wander rather than focus. This will never be the finest hour for any American, regardless of view.

But, Iraq has gotten a whole lot safer. We've actually managed to do some things pretty well of late. So, I have to think you're as capable on this one as the finger tilting granny by make a gesture for the gesture's sake. I will admit to having joined with my own futile exercises at times.

The 'War Blogs' cover the spectrum. You can find a warrior with your own view without a problem. But, if you'll give them all a fair read, you might find it is more complex than a sign in a parade and local reaction.

9:06 AM  
Blogger The Wife said...

As the wife of a man now in Iraq, I struggle with any of the war protests. I want the war to end. I want him home. But the ugliness and the Bush-hating (I'm not a huge fan, by the way) and some of the things our soldiers go through makes me sick. The only thing that consistently makes me proud is this little collective of people out at Ft. Lewis who have it right. Everyday day they stand on the "Freedom Bridge" over I-5, the bridge covered in little yellow streamers, and they wave signs of support. And everytime I drive my car through, its installation sticker prominent on the front windshield, they cheer. They cheer for me. They cheer for Dr. Chako. Thank you for the few folks who realize my husband is just doing the job he was asked to do, regardless of his politics or yours.

Nice post.

The Wife

12:44 PM  

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