One of the great problems with being a writer is that you never know how people are going to take your more disturbing stories. You set traps, drop Easter eggs, and lavish hidden humor and puns in hopes that someone gets it.
Elkins does it all today. And I got it. I now feel even better about tomorrow’s story, which is almost, but not quite, as disturbing. Whew.
In years gone by I’ve posted clever (I thought) flash fiction. But this year I want to talk a little bit about the toll.
You see, veterans are people who write checks to their country that when cashed result in damaged bodies, wrecked minds and death. We all wrote those checks and hoped they wouldn’t be cashed. But we vowed our sacred loyalty to the United States of America. That oath never expires, by the way.
This year the loss of friends has hit me harder than in the past. I am still young, in my opinion, but way too many of my friends are dead. And the remaining ones all have damage to their bodies from their service. They don’t hear very well – my hearing aid story is next week – or their backs and knees are shot from carrying 100 pound packs or doing 100 carrier landings. Some have emotional problems from what they witnessed, or did themselves. Others were raped by strangers while in the military – both men and women.
And yet, as a group, there is none finer. I’d rather take that broken battalion of boozers into tight places and fight my way out with them than with even the best civilians.
The reason why? We have shared history. I might never have met them before, but I know their mind and their life because I lived it as well. I have more in common with Korean War vets than my civilian peers. I can sit and drink a beer with a 24 year old female Marine and understand her better than her parents can. And God help you if you talk trash to either one of us, for you get to fight both of us.
But I miss my friends. I miss my sea-daddy Pete who couldn’t adjust to civilian life and killed himself. I miss Stache who just up and died one day last year with no warning. I miss Mike who died of cancer after a long battle. I miss the ones whom I never hear any more and don’t know how they died.
I miss my youth with them. I miss not being able to tell the stories to you because they’re still classified.
But I honor everyone, even if I don’t like them, who put on the uniform and served.