Veterans Day, 2009
With last week's Fort Hood killings, the military is in the news this Veterans Day.
Bad enough you're at risk if you get sent into a combat zone, let alone you can lose your life to some enraged fellow soldier who goes off his nut.
It's interesting to see how our attitudes towards the military have changed over my lifetime.
When I was a kid, military service just was. Everyone's father had been in World War II. Everyone's older brothers, cousins, and neighborhood kids got drafted or joined up. It just was.
Then came Vietnam, and suddenly it just wasn't.
Now we have the situation in which military service falls disproportionately on the working class and the poor. Although a prolonged recession may up the class and educational profile a bit, the skew is not likely to change any time soon.
In return for their service, we give our boys and girls - should they survive - some educational benefits and, from what I understand, some not so great (mental) health care. Oh, yes, and then there are the ads playing on people's patriotism. And all the palaver about everyone who joins the military being a can-do-no-wrong hero, fighting to keep us free (even if some of the wars they fight in seem at best to be tangentially related to "our freedom").
Not that there aren't many members of the service who do behave heroically, throwing themselves in front of a speeding bullet to save a fellow soldier or an innocent bystander. But most, I'm guessing, are just people motivated by a combination of patriotism, desire for adventure, and economic reality to join up. And while most of them do get the opportunity to be brave - I wouldn't want to be roaming around Baghdad in a HumVee, thank you - most probably don't get the chance to be heroes.
I read the articles in the paper on the New England soldiers who've been killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Just the other day, it was a handsome young pilot who left a little girl and a wife who's eight months pregnant. How can your heart not ache for the family?
On Veterans Day, most of us just go about our business. If the parade walks by, we watch it for a few minutes. Who doesn't love a parade? And that will be about it for the year's thought on Army-Navy-Air Force-Marines-Coast Guard. Until and unless there's another Ft. Hood style meltdown.
I'm not sure if Buddy Poppies - which benefit veteran-related charities - are sold in November, for Veterans Day, or in May for Memorial Day. I will be on the alert this week for someone in an oversea's cap selling them.
Most of us probably don't know many active service members. But most of us probably do know at least a few veterans.
Happy Veterans Day to all of them.
Here's what I wrote last year on Veterans Day. It still holds.