Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brought To You In Part, By The Yellow-Magnet Society

It's that special time again.

It only comes once a year. Everywhere you go today, people stop to offer goodwill to their fellows. People remember a time, a shared experience. Decorations come out, holiday banners line the street.

You know what day I'm talking about, of course. It's Veterans' Day.

All day today, I've seen the signs: "Thank you for your service," "God Bless Our Veterans." On the news, hair-sprayed anchors devote hours of airtime to specials on military history. They exhort us to remember the sacrifice of those who served, and on the crisp November air, comes the scent of renewed patriotism, the aroma heady, warm, like late-season apple pie. It's a glorious time, a time when we remember our national roots, and celebrate those who answered the nation's call.

You'll forgive me for not sharing in the holiday spirit.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the sentiment, and I appreciate it. And I am glad to pass it on. Whether you served on the front lines in WWII, or just served as a radio operator beneath the burning sun of Iraq, this day is YOUR day, and above all else let me say this to my fellow Initiates: Thank you. Thank us. Let us remember what we have fought for, and what we have earned.

And as for those of you who never served, well, fear not. Many of you have borne us in your hearts, all this time, have worried and prayed for us. Some of you, like the gentleman I spoke to the other day, continue to do so, working as he did in physical therapy, providing care to those of us who came back wounded, broken. To to those of you who have remembered us in the hard times, allow me to say this: this is your day, too. You have my sincere and unending gratitude.

Let us reflect.

In case you didn't notice, that was my dose of cheer. I hope you enjoyed it. Now, as I take another swig of my Killian's, allow me to turn my baleful gaze upon the rest of you. You know who you are, America--The Yellow Magnet Society. You, with your cheap gas-station trinkets, parked strategically next to your McCain-Palin bumper stickers, the ensemble carefully offset by your 50-cent Chinese-made window flag. You, who speak of Victory as a condition for ending an endless war. You, who think the survivors of a lesser war to be lesser men for having, as you so often put it, returning home broken, defeated.

To you I say: what right do you have to thank me? To thank any of us?

I get it: it must be very hard seeing all those reports on the news. Another suicide bombing in Ramadi, another story on proud veterans, now homeless and crippled by mental illness. This last few years has been just as hard for you. I mean, every day, having to go outside the Wire. It's all good when you're nestled behind the razor-wire optimism of Fox News, but man, when you're neck-deep in the shit--that Communist News Network?--man. Some of us, I guess, can never even know.

So here's what I want to know: why the FUCK should your thanks, on this one day out of the year, mean shit to us? What the FUCK do you think your appreciation's gonna do for my buddy Oz, kicked out of the Army three months ago because of his drinking problem? How the FUCK do you think your gratitude's gonna get that old crazy dude in the Vietnam-era Army field jacket to a bed tonight? You think your words are going to keep him warm? You think your platitudes are going give back to Oz the job in which he took so much pride?

I sure hope not.

"Well, what do you want from us?" you ask me. "We're trying, doesn't that mean anything?" And in response, I say: "Yes." It does. It means everything to me. It helps me stave off the guilt I battle every morning, leaving battle-buddies behind behind by not re-enlisting. It gives me hope that maybe this feeling, this nagging voice that says if I'd just done one more mission, that that voice is just trying to psych me out.

When I get down on myself, thinking of how I should have covered better for my friends, how I should have gotten to Brooks before the unit humiliated him by confiscating his mags, making him sit in the day room on Suicide Watch, your appreciation, your thanks, the looks of awe you give me when I tell you about my time in the desert, that helps me remember. It reminds me that, no matter what,it all really happened, and that nobody, no matter how much they disagree with me, can take that away, ever.

When I think to myself late at night, maybe I should go back in, those voices, those words are there to give me solace. You did enough, they tell me. Don't worry about all of that. You did your part. All of the lies, all of the bullshit, they don't mean anything now. Think about what you have here at home. Think of your wife. And that should be enough, I think. And for some part of me, it is.

But then that other part of me kicks in, the one that remembers how tomorrow the injustice, the neglect we all face when we come home, or lose parts of ourselves, will be forgotten. And then it's just back to business-as-usual. Another disabled man or woman denied treatment; another soldier kicked out for not being able to face the day without drugs or booze; another stupid kid straight out of high-school, lied into things he cannot even begin to understand. And after tomorrow, it's gonna be back to waiting for next year. Veteran's Day goes away, and with it so do millions of veterans.

You want to honor veterans? Call your Congressman and lobby for reforms of our VA system. Be there for the returning GWOT vet, and provide a listening ear when he gets down on life. Go downtown and deliver a fucking sandwich to the old coot in the ratty fatigue blouse, sitting on the park bench mumbling to himself. Fuck, give him a lift to the shelter. And don't just do that today; do it this weekend, do it in six months. Find the time. Something. Anything.

Me? I'm gonna sit here and take another swig of my beer. This is my day. I earned it.


idiosynchronic said...

Man, I cannot even begin to know what to say, Milo. I barely know you, and I so barely believe I have the right to thank you for your service. I wouldn't dare tell any other veteran that whom I don't know. I suppose that's a start.

Just one thing: "the unit humiliated him by confiscating his mags, making him sit in the day room on Suicide Watch." What the heck are mags and why suicide watch?

Seven of Six said...

Milo, One thing I never did when I first got out of the Army was to remember the simple missions. Do it day to day if you have to. Love your wife, family and yourself. Go to work and do your best. Don't beat yourself up for what you could have done. Realize that you have triumphed over being a tool for others. Celebrate each day, similar to having that beer... you earned it.

When I got out, I couldn't focus on my priorities. Then it felt like my world was falling apart. I was letting all the bad shit live rent free in my brain.

The load has been lifted... the birds are chirping... the fish are swimming... the sun is shining. And we have new fucking President. What more can I be grateful for!

Seven of Six said...

And Milo, if you want a good laugh, check out Paul Rudd dancing on TDS!!

"I enjoyed that more than a man should have!"

iamcoyote said...

Did they take away his Playboy and Hustler? In a public display of humiliation? I heard they were doing that still. Fuckers.

Fantastic post, Milo, just fantastic. Exactly why I kinda hate these "holidays" 'cos they're so bogus. Words of thanks are useless, laying of wreaths, what's that supposed to do? Take care of the vets, that's how you say thanks. Gosh, I hope Obama chooses Tammy Duckworth or Paul Reikoff for VA Affairs. Then something might actually be done.

snark said...

Mags = magazines.

As in the metal things you fill with bullets to make the rifle your carrying something more than a bludgeon.

iamcoyote said...

Makes sense to me, snark.

Anjha said...

Milo, excellent post. Really. Excellent.

Hey, would you all mind putting an IAVA button on our front page? Maybe right under the electoral map (or in place of it?)

I like the small one on the top. "Support the Troops - Listen to Them." I like that one.

Hey, on a personal note, I am going in for a colonoscopy and endoscopy today. I have not eaten since Tuesday night and am in the process of drinking the second dose of colon blow...I am not happy and am not sure how I am typing (other than this is a great escape from reality.)

Historically, I am knocked out for a week or more due to this procedure. I am inflammed and cannot handle this prep and I have to do full anesthesia which fucks me up too. So, I might not be around for a bit.

Take care everyone. I will talk with you soon.

iamcoyote said...

Take care of yourself, Anjha, hope everything comes out all right.


Really, though. Take care...

Seven of Six said...

Anjha, Are you taking that "Fleet" crap? Man that will clean you out... I've had my scopes a few years ago... not fun. Hope you feel better.

Anjha said...

No - it is "Movi-Prep" - but it is all bad shit. (Thank gawd for public schools) Kiddo said, "Mom, that colon blow has Sodium Chloride in it. That's the same stuff that they use to melt the ice on the sidewalks."

So, apparently I am drinking rock salt.

Tis OK. I am almost done. Appt in 2 hours. Then, sweet nothingness of anesthesia. Until, that is, I wake up puking. At least I will get a little bit of time.

Did you guys hear about Dennis's sister? Damn, that is really sad. She looks just like him.

The poor guy. He really has had a tough life.

snark said...

Take care of yourself Anjha.

Anjha said...

Thank you all for your support, it musta worked, because I am up and better than I normally am after this kind of bullshit.

My throat is sore as is under my chin (from the scope) and my guts are in trauma and bloated from the air - but, surprisingly I am lucid. I had a brilliant anesthesiologist who I have now added to my medical team and will insist on having in the future.

He gave me a fabulous coctail of anti-nausea meds that were not also knock me out meds (like many anti-nausea meds are.) In addition, it appears that he did not over-anesthistize (sp?) because here I am, awake and ready to go and not feeling toxically impaired.


Thank you all again for your good energy sent my way.

Love, Anjha

Hey, how do you all feel about the IAVA button? Can I add it?

Seven of Six said...

Anjha, You can add anything you want.

Glad your feeling better. I hate minor procedures that fuck up your life for a while. I guess they are important though.

Sorry I haven't been able to contribute. Dealing with the folks. Dad is need of care and I have to help Mom out. Good thing they are only 20 minutes away.

Anjha said...

I added the button. Anyone who wants me to remove it, just ask.

Sorry about your dad SoS. I meant to reply in that thread, I am sorry I have been a bit self-involved lately.

Has the Social Worker suggested that you guys actually move the house into your name, instead of mom's?

I know that my sis and I have talked about that with our dad. If he ever needs to enter a nursing home, they would take him for everything that he owns - it happened with my in-laws that way. It was BS.

I just wonder if it would make more sense to be in your name (or your sister's) rather than your mom's because can't they still come after her for his bills? That was how it worked with my in-laws.

Take care of yourself while taking care of them. They may be close enough physically that it does not seem like that big of a deal, but emotionally it is an enormous toll.