Wednesday, November 11, 2009
In Honor of Our Veterans
As I noted on Facebook today, my father served in the United States Navy during World War II. He trained fighter pilots, and then was assigned to serve aboard the USS Natoma Bay in the Pacific in our war with the Japanese. My father never really spoke much about the war, beyond quick references to Naha where they didn't leave "stone on top of another stone." But I remember during the Iranian student uprising when our embassy in Tehran was seized, I, as a patriotic youngster, crowed that we ought to go to war with Iran. After all, isn't that how you settle a score with an enemy?
My dad put his fork down at the dinner table and fixed me with the "Dad" stare.
"You do NOT want to go to war! War is hell!"
I suppose I should have straightened up, saluted and given him a, "Sir, yes, sir!"
Much later, as part of the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I interviewed my dad for the radio and gathered more information about his thoughts on serving in the Navy and being part of the World War II generation. Dad said that, initially, being in the Navy was just about having a good time. When Pearl Harbor happened, it changed the landscape and the meaning of his service. He acknowledged there was a difference between how someone in the Navy, particularly pilots, experienced the war versus' someone involved in on-the-ground combat. Mostly, he said, the pilots never got to see the human results of their bombing.
I wouldn't say my dad was a pacifist. But he certainly seemed to be a realist. He said that everyone likes to believe that when they go to war, they're doing it for good, for the "right" reasons. But I think my dad, after having served and seen the cost of wars both before, during, and after his time in uniform, came to a place of thinking there has to be a better way to settle conflict between nations.
And so on this Veteran's Day, I have taken quiet moments of remembrance for the service of my father, and other men and women, who put aside other pursuits in service to our country. I remember the countless number of lesbian and gay service members who remain silent, and enlisted, or have been discharged for simply being who they are. And I can't help but take pause at the tragedy that happened at Fort Hood in Texas last week, and all the people affected by that act of violence.
I pray for all of them and all of us that we will understand that war is hell, and find better ways to settle our differences than to sacrifice the lives of servicemen and women.
He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.--Isaiah 2:4