Niagara Gazette —
On Veterans Day, more than any other, I think we should at least try to understand the heart of our warriors. But I’m not sure it’s possible.
My dad was a Navy man. He was on a sailing ship at the edge of the Battle of Normandy and late at night, after a single day that saw the beach darkened by the dead, he was part of a rescue effort when a troop ship sank. He helped to pull frightened young soldiers out of the sea, grabbing their hands and telling them, “It’s OK. I’ve got you,” before he pulled them to safety.
Back then, like today, they were mostly just young kids. Each one was somebody’s son or daughter, and together they went off to war with the bravado typical of the untested. As we all know, in that war as in all wars, they were never the same again.
Those of us who haven’t been to war will probably never understand the heart of a warrior. Most of us have never seen our friends blown to bits, never suffered the anxieties of wondering if today will be our last day. Never had to pick up a weapon and go out and kill at random.
The culture our soldiers have given their lives to protect sometimes seems silly and self involved to those lucky enough to return from the battlefield. We likely seem far more interested in Facebook than Afghanistan.
A couple years ago I wrote about the most important soldier in my life. It was startling for me to realize that until I actually knew a soldier “over there,” the war in the Middle East was simply an intellectual concept. Rather like talking about having kids one day compared to holding your own child in your arms.