How does the saying go?
“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.”
I hope, in writing this, I am not too much of the fool.
Veterans Day 2013.
My Facebook News Feed is filled with pictures of veterans and words of thanks. It is not that I am ungrateful, but all of it leaves me a bit unsettled and here is why. For more than half of the time I have been alive the United States has been at war. I was born while my father was in the Air Force during the Korean War. I came of age during the Vietnam War. Then there was Iraq War #1, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq War #2 and still the war in Afghanistan. And, that doesn’t even count the Granada or Bosnia or Libya or any of the other places I have forgotten or was not told about. For more than half my life the headlines have included some war we were fighting.
Someone’s child not coming home.
We are slow to learn and that leaves me unsettled.
And, I am unsettled by the fact that every war we have fought since Vietnam has been fought by a smaller and smaller segment of our population. Fought by young adults often from our more rural communities. And, often by those with less academic or employment options than my children had. We are quick to heap accolades and thanks on our soldiers, but at least for those of us who live where I live, we do not know them.
They are not our children.
They are not from around here.
And, I don’t think that is fair.
If we are going to have an all volunteer army, then I think we need also to have a mandatory two year service requirement for all young adults.
Some will choose the military.
But others would chose the Peace Corps.
Or, Teach for America.
Or, Habitat for Humanity.
That adds to the well being of all of us.
Until that day comes, I will continue to feel a bit unsettled on Veterans Day.
And, I am unsettled by how we use the word hero.
Not that our service men and women should not be considered heroes, but they should not be the only ones. I remember reading an article in Newsweek written by a retired Army general. He was reflecting on how others responded to him when he walked through airports in his uniform or how the word hero was, at times, used to describe him. He wrote that while he appreciated the recognition he received, he wished for the day when teachers would also be called heroes and social workers would be called heroes and those who worked so hard to care for the most disenfranchised among us would be called heroes.
I wish for that day, as well.
Until there is some deeper investment on all of our parts to serve our country, our words will fall short, and we will fall short of who we might be…together.