A Veteran's Day of Remembrance and of Private Tears

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

I would never wish upon my fellow Americans the distinction of becoming a Veteran of this new war in our own land. For the heart, the mind, the soul of a Veteran never heals and never seals the wounds of war -- any war, anywhere, even here in America.


By Al Garcia

Like the young and naïve American boys and young men who have found themselves in war, whether in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or other places in the Middle East, our nation has for centuries considered itself invulnerable and invincible. 

I was one of those young boys who found himself confronted with my mortality at an age when the adrenaline of life was just starting to stir the passion and the appetite for the promises and the dreams not yet lived.  Today, I am a Veteran.  A man scarred by the spectacle of war, and by the personal memories and friendships that war leaves behind.

From early on as a teenager and then a young adult, I always knew that America was a nation of simple values -- Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Compassion and Courage.  I knew that it was these values that Americans had sacrificed for, and that each generation of Americans had so passionately and zealously championed, in order to retain and sustain the American Dream.  And, as a soldier, like so many of my comrades, and so many before us, we knew we were part of that legacy of America’s greatness. 

I also knew that Americans -- white, black, brown, and all shades in between -- had always been a people and a nation quick to help those less fortunate or less favored by fate or circumstance.  It was instinctual and inborn into the American DNA – the pursuit of decency, morality and civility, in a world hungering for stability and security.  And, when I took my oath of military service in 1968, I was proud -- proud of becoming a part of the great American experience of duty, honor, country.  I was following in the footsteps of leaders and heroes, and ordinary men with extraordinary courage and resolve.

I am a Veteran of America’s past, when we still believed in America’s founding principles and values, based on the simple notion of truth -- self-evident truths.  And, most central among those truths, the belief that all men are created equal.  Even as a young man, I realized that America was not perfect.  But rather, we were a nation continually striving to realize more fully the principles, ideals and virtues upon which our nation was founded.  America, and we, the American soldier, was the living and evolving example of the power of truth, of trust, and of compassion.

I learned too well and too young the cost of service and of sacrifice.  I learned that in war, waged for whatever reason or whatever motive, it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.  And I also learned in war, that heroes were ordinary boys and men with extraordinary courage, bravery and valor, revealed in one brief fleeting moment of ultimate sacrifice.

I, like many of my fellow Veterans of old wars, new wars and current wars – have learned to live with the memories and with the nightmares that haunt our questioning minds and our quivering souls.  We have become accustomed to the emptiness left by those who stayed behind in the shadows of wars that never seem to end.  We each have come to understand in our own may, and in our own time, that unquestioned service and sacrifice is part of a soldier’s duty to country and to our legacy of greatness.

Veteran’s Day for many of us who have served or are serving in the military – many in distant lands, far from the hustle and bustle of ordinary lives in big cities, small communities, farmlands and valleys across America, this day has a different meaning and a different feeling.  Veteran’s Day not only brings back cruel and unsettling memories, but also the realization that today we are living through an episode in our nation’s story that is inconsistent with America’s history, and antithetical to American values and ideals, and certainly contrary to our oath of service.  Many Veterans are realizing that there are those in our country today, who are inclined to ignore the truths upon which this nation was founded, and for which so many soldiers sacrificed their lives.  Convictions that up until now, had withstood the test of time and of human frailties, arrogance, and even wars that have left us rattled and shaken.

Today, Veterans of all ages, of all wars, and of all times, are taking time to reevaluate the cost of their service to our country, and the sacrifices they made, and the ultimate sacrifice too many made on the fields of war. 

This time, the war has come to us.  This time, we will all suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of a political war waged with words that deceive, rhetoric that inflames, and actions that provoke.  And there will be heroes in this war too -- individuals with the courage, bravery and valor to embrace truth and reaffirm the principles and values that represents the best of America -- a return to America’s roots -- Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Compassion and Courage.

America’s principles and values are eroding -- the very same principles, values and virtues that every Veteran fought for and that too many even died for, in too many wars.  There is a new war here in America.  It is not being fought with bullets or bombs, but rather with words and with treachery.  And the enemy is our own apathy, our greed and our bigotry.  Currently, this war has no name.  But history will surely give it a name, and an accounting of the victors and the losers.

Do not be deceived and entranced by replicas of Jim Jones, David Koresh, or other “cult-style” leaders whose charisma and deceptive rhetoric blinded and deceived the innocent, the weak and the naïve, thirsty for purpose or for direction.  Do not be exploited or let yourselves be indoctrinated by the constant repetition of lies. falsehoods and untruths, especially in this electronic age, when facts and truths can be verified instantaneously.  It is those who seek unconditional obedience and submission to their authority and their duplicity, along with their simple-minded enablers, who are the enemy in our new war here at home.  And as Veterans, our minds and our hearts ache at the very thought of what might happen on the green, green grass of home.  The very place we dreamed about and cared about, and loved, when we fought our war and came back home. 

For many of us Veterans, our war has never ended.  It is etched in our memories and our daily struggles.  And now, we are confronted with yet another assault.  This time on our own home front, by our own misguided leaders and their cult-like followers.  We are experiencing an assault on our character and our nobility as used-up patriots of this great nation. 

We fought once and we persevered, despite the wounds and scars that may not yet have healed.  Many of us can see and hear the assault on our democracy and our nation.  And, as Veterans, we know the meaning of service and of sacrifice.  This time, unfortunately, it is our family and our friends who will suffer and bear the wounds and scars of the fight for our nation’s heart and soul, along with many of us tired and tattered Veterans.  The victims and the casualties will not be strangers in foreign lands, or poor and forgotten victims of unfettered power and greed.  They will be us, the lost patriots of a past legacy of honor and of pride. 

This Veteran’s Day brought back too many memories for me.  And I, like many other Veterans, was saddened and alarmed by the darkening clouds that are forming across our land.  For we have seen the signs and the warnings before in other lands and other times, and we have seen the destruction and the carnage always left behind.

And, like me, many Veterans ask themselves, “Why can’t they see the treachery and dishonesty?”  All they have to do is open their eyes and then simply listen to the words of division and of hate and distrust.  And all they have to say is “No.  We’re better than that!”  But all I hear on this Veteran’s Day is silence, and the distant drums of chaos, rivalry and conflict that has brought down nations and enslaved the innocent. 

Veteran’s Day for many of us is just another day of continued sorrow for the fallen and the wounded in body and in spirit, in wars and conflicts many of us never understood.  It is also another day of mounting stress and regret at having to witness the daily erosion of American principles and values across our nation.  Wars have robbed so many of my comrades of their youth and their dreams in rice paddies, jungles, deserts and oil fields.  Boys and young men that could have changed the world. 

Veteran’s Day is not just another day.  For many of us, it is a day of remembrance and of private tears.  It is not just a day to shop or waste away, but a day to resurrect the forgotten dreams, if only for one brief moment, of those brave young men who gave their lives to keep alive the now vanishing American Dream.

I would never wish upon my fellow Americans the distinction of becoming a Veteran of this new war in our own land.  For the heart, the mind, the soul of a Veteran never heals and never seals the wounds of war -- any war, anywhere, even here in America. 

Submitted: November 09, 2021

© Copyright 2021 A.Garcia. All rights reserved.

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