Sunday, May 28, 2017

Memorial Day for an Old Soldier

World War I veteran. I'm not THAT old!

This year I am completely out of the Army after all the ambiguous years in which I was over the usual age limit. Now I have been out for a full year and my uniform is just for ceremonies, like honoring the dead.

Since my 18 years of service occurred over a 44-year period, I know a lot of soldiers who have died. I grew up in a neighborhood in which most of the men were World War II veterans, including my father.  I enlisted during the Vietnam War so I served with Korean War veterans who senior sergeants and officers in the 1970s Army.

Many of the senior sergeants and officers I served with after the Vietnam War and during the Cold War in the 70s and 80s have passed away. Most died after retirement. The 70s Army was not as obsessed with safety as the current Army, but that means I can recall a three soldiers I knew who died in training exercises in Europe.

From my Iraq War service, the soldiers I know personally who have died have taken their own lives.  Partly this is because I enlisted late in the war when combat deaths were infrequent compared to the early days of the war, and partly it is demographics: I am older than almost everyone I served with between 2007 and 2016, including the Generals and the Sergeant Majors.

So this weekend, I am thinking of the soldiers I know who served their country and have passed away: the World War II veterans who were the Dads of my childhood friends, the Vietnam and Korean War veterans who were my leaders during my first enlistment, and the Iraq veterans, especially those who suffered invisible wounds that led to them taking their own lives.

It was my honor and privilege to serve with every one of them.

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