effect and cause
we treat PTSD and see effect of a certain cause, but how often do we pause to reflect on the greater truth, that it's often our most troubled, vulnerable and unloved citizens who somehow find the courage, strength and love for the rest of us that they will lay down their lives if called to stand up for a better way in the first place? i feel myself fortunate to have been able to trace much of my ancestry back to the american revolutionary war and beyond, and i'll tell you that the close reason myself, my sons and my daughter could not otherwise take a place among the sons and daughters of the american revolution is because the ancestors of ours who fought, bled and died for that cause were the childless uncles whose stories can only be inferred from the little record that remains. (leaving me all the more stunned and in awe of the sacrifices of the soldiers answering the call on april 19th, 1776, who were, perhaps completely unique in our history, virtually comprised of almost ALL of the men to a man, and not just the most dissolute and without their own family among them). perhaps only in world war II, when volunteerism was the rule rather than the exception, did we see a fighting force somewhat balanced among all the demographics of men in this country. (apologies for the generalization--women have been able to step up only so recently as to make historical reflection impossible, except to point out the anecdotes of molly pitcher and others to show that more would have if they could, and many still did and do anyway). but when we record the incidence of suicide and drug dependence and alcoholism among these men, do we really see?
we owe a debt here in this country that is as deep and endless as has been ever owed. in the history of the world, a government by, of and for the people is so rare as to be almost perfectly forgotten now that we have ours, and so many others have taken our example. but even more perfectly forgotten is to whom we owe this debt.
when you and i see the next veteran "down on his luck", i hope we can consider that even this dearth of good fortune is an embarrassment of riches compared to the dark and endlessly quiet hole into which so many of his friends have been buried. i'm overcome with tears every time i recall my uncle's funeral, and the silent honor guard of broken men who stood silent vigil around the edges and to the back of the crowd gathered at his graveside while his earthly remains were lowered. we had family beside us in our grief. these men, nameless to almost all but each other, one by one become dust to their dust as each salute is fired over their heads and over their broken bodies. my uncle never spoke more than an instant before he caught himself of the brothers he had to leave behind. it was almost as if it was of a quality of people he knew in his heart the rest of us--happy and healthy and safe and free--could never really know.
for how could we know? how could we know the loneliness and shame of being someone with whom no one of "polite society" prefers share shelter and table and company, and how could we know the simple courage to fight for us even so?
i feel the value of my freedom--i plan to thank a vet, and spend a quiet moment reflecting on those who did not get to come home to enjoy their part of it. i hope everyone can do that much today.