Happy Veteran’s Day!
When I was a kid and I thought of veteran’s, I thought of my Grandpa and other old men like him. And while I knew on an intellectual level that by celebrating this day we were giving thanks to them for their sacrifices, and willingness to sacrifice, on an emotional level I celebrated Veteran’s Day because my Grandpa was the most important person in my life, and I loved him. Honoring him as a WWII vet was just a part of that.
For many years now, I have associated Veteran’s Day with my baby brother. He served two tours, and survived a bomb going off under his vehicle, but not without taking some damage. He also happens to be one of a handful (including my husband and kids) who I really truly trust. But, today I really haven’t been thinking of all that.
Instead, the image which has repeatedly come to mind is a picture of my two brothers, both considerably younger than me, dressed up in loose-fitting women’s shirts, wearing matching sunglasses and shower caps. They’re sitting side-by-side on our front porch, one all in blues and the other in reds, and they look torn between pride in their unusual attire and concern that they’ve somehow crossed a line that Mom would object to. They’re not sure on that last bit, ’cause they haven’t actually broken any rules, but there’s still the feeling that maybe this isn’t the clothing Mom would want them to wear when going for a walk or hanging out in the front yard where the neighbors can see.
Why, yes, I may have had a hand in dressing them.
The second image which comes to mind today may redeem me somewhat. It’s of two tall stacks of picture books, one for each brother. Our nightly ritual was that they would pick out books they wanted me to read, with the understanding that they were each only allowed two or three, maybe four. They would then each pick out six to ten books, and proceed to beg me into reading the entire stack. And of course I always gave in, since I secretly loved the stories, too.
One of their favorites was Stone Soup.
It’s a tale of three soldiers traveling home from the war. They’re tired and hungry and unwelcome by the peasants who don’t want to share their food or comforts with raggedy soldiers. However, the soldiers are clever and soon get everyone involved in making the magical stone soup, and the night ends with feasting, dancing, and the soldiers sleeping in the best beds in town.
It’s a fantastic folk tale, and somehow appropros for Veteran’s Day, I think. Soldiers generally face a challenging return journey on coming home from war. There’s the adjustment required in returning to civilian life, the physical wear and tear on bodies that can harbor damage even when they look whole, and the haunting images and horrors of war. But somewhere inside each soldier is a little boy or girl who’s sister may have dressed them up in ridiculous clothes. A child, who grew up to serve when and where their country asked them to. I hope they’ll always be met with comfort, love and gratitude on their journey home.
Do you have anyone in particular that you think of when you hear the word ‘veteran’? Is it a family member, or someone from history, perhaps?