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Giving Some Thanks — the Write Way

November 16, 2010

As I sit here at the computer, still digesting that fantastic meal from Golden Corral, I found myself reflecting on the topic of being thankful.

Now, this isn’t because it’s almost Thanksgiving, but more about why I was digesting the “wonderful” meal from Golden Corral. See, it was Military Appreciation Day and good old GC was treating veterans to a free meal (in case you’ve never heard of Golden Corral, it’s a buffet-style restaurant; a meal is whatever number of trips through the buffet line your stomach can handle).

Last Thursday was Veterans Day and a bunch of restaurants treated vets to an array of freebies, ranging from a free appetizer (like the Bloomin’ Onion at Outback Steakhouse) to an entire menu (Applebee’s). I can only imagine what would happen if Hooters joined the movement.

Being solo on these jaunts, I ended up sharing tables with others and got to hear their “war” stories and military tales. It made me wonder about these future generations are going to cope. I could remember all the discipline that military life had introduced into the lives of us veterans.

It made us productive citizens (most of us, anyway). The kind who built this great nation, brick by brick, girder by girder and X chromosome by Y chromosome.

Alas, it seemed as if the veterans’ appreciation is destined to become like Christmas – that once-a-year event where we all suddenly remember to be good to our fellow human beings, though even that is disappearing fast in an age of disaffectedness and political correctness.

For all the wonderful bits of technology we have available to us – cell phones, iPhones, Internet, laptops – we still seem not to know that there are wars going on. The news is reduced to “NATO servicemembers killed” yada yada yada.

Unfortunately, we’ve been going down that road for awhile. In Vietnam, protesters spit on returning veterans. While I’m glad no one is spitting now, we’re doing something almost as bad – we are gleefully and naively asking young men and women “did you kill anyone over there” or, even worse “how did it feel?”

Talk about disrespect. And everyone is asking, from little kids to adults.

I don’t know anymore.

As for what this topic has to do with writing, such a culture change appears in our books. Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (Mark Bowden), The Hurt Locker(Mark Boal) and Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead have showed us a war fought by the brave while the disaffected back home don’t seem to   notice. Boal appears here again with “Death  and Dishonor,” a piece that led to the movie In the Valley of Elah, a movie based on actual events in which soldiers suffering from PTSD because of Iraq kill and dismember one of their own.

Maybe we should either start writing about the bravery of our men and women in uniform and stop focusing on all the negative stuff. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen didn’t ask to go to war, but they performed their duties nonetheless. They certainly don’t need the people they’re safeguarding to paint them all with the same brush.

And maybe we can help with a few strokes of a pen instead of a paint brush.

At the very least, don’t wait until Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day to say thanks to those who served our country faithfully and with honor.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2010 7:25 pm

    Moving post, Greg. Thanks. We had to coach our kids about not asking leading questions when they attended their cousin’s funeral last spring. There were twelve or so guys from the Army and Air Force there and we didn’t want them asking something inappropriate to the grieving men.

    We’ve even made sure they’re careful when Asa comes to visit. It’s okay to ask about their job and the weapons they use – but not on who or what they have used them on. Thankfully, a lot of it goes over their heads and they just ask in-general stuff.

    But, earlier this fall my daughter was asked at school who her hero was and she said her cousin Asa (who is a sergeant {mortar man} serving in Afghanistan right now). I was so proud of her.

    My birthday is Veteran’s Day. It’s always meant a lot to me to share in such a important holiday. But you’re right, today’s youth doesn’t always get it… and it’s depressing.

    • November 16, 2010 11:21 pm

      Good to know that there are some who remember our veterans, C.J.

      As for the naive, I remember being on a bus at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and this couple asked one of the soldiers on board if he’d ever shot anybody. The guy looked very uncomfortable. The couple asking were in their 50’s at least, and should have known better (made me wonder if the husband was a draft dodger or something as he would have been old enough for Vietnam at some point between ’67 and ’73).

      I quickly changed the subject by asking the soldier what outfit he was with. He asked me about my service. I patted my gut and said “Navy obviously.” We got to talking about how the Navy seemed to get all the good food.

      And, by the way, this wouldn’t be the same Asa who uses his 30 days of leave to help Viv and Rafe out, is it?

      • November 17, 2010 8:17 pm

        Damn skippy it is! I emailed him and told him I was naming a character after him – then asked if he’d like his real last name used or should I make one up. He was so cute, said something like his last name fit the name well so why not keep it (and not bother with the trouble of me finding a new one).

        Like I couldn’t do better than Monson in my sleep? *snort*

        He also picked the side arm weapon Asa uses – a S & W 500. He was very excited about picking the gun.

        He asked me to make sure Asa “gets some” in the next book. Now, this is the same young man who couldn’t read the first book because of the sex scenes. Said it made him very uncomfortable because I wrote it. I laughed out loud (and later to his face) over that one. But, the first sex scene in book two is with his character and another vamp, so he got his wish.

  2. November 16, 2010 10:48 pm

    Greg,
    As always, you say things so beautifully. No matter how many great writers have written about war, the march of young minds and bodies off to foreign lands, some of whom don’t come back, the rest of us think about our dads and moms and brothers and sisters, our cousins and best friends, and, sigh, our sons and daughters who give of themselves, we struggle how to relate to it all. As the mother of one so inclined I linger between bracing myself and admiring his courage. And I join a long history of wives and mothers who have done the same for centuries. It’s a unique club I never thought I would be a part of.

    It isn’t fair to judge them for their desire to do something greater than themselves, yet people do every day, especially in the media. I think sometimes people don’t know how to say thanks. But one good thing that has happened as the result of 9/11 is that more people are unafraid to say thanks. Even in Northern California I see it. I never used to see stickers saying “God Bless Our Troops” before. Little voices in the night of darkness.

    And I agree, it isn’t enough to just remember them around Veterans Day or Memorial Day. I’m usually a wreck at the Memorial Day celebrations, as I see the family of the recent fallen in combat, hug those parents and wives and hope and pray I don’t ever stand in their shoes. It’s a tradition at our local cemetary to put up those pictures on a big bulletin board and give their family a flag and front row seating to a packed audience, where you can only hear the sniffling and the waving of the flags planted on every veteran’s grave – the big ones – not the little ones – that make a noise as they unfurl and blow in the tempest of the wind like they are angry with the loss of life. As they should be. War is never fair.

    We have protestors too who usually hold up some sign you wish the mother of a recent fallen angel will never see. There are usually some big biker guys with tattoos everywhere that stand in front of their sign and make sure that doesn’t happen. God Bless their beer bellies and sense of decency. They protect the innocent from the predators of politics.

    I am totally comfortable thanking every person I see in an airport in uniform. I touch their arm, men, women, old or young, and thank them for their service, as I hope someone else is doing for my son somewhere. My family has gently reminded me we were late for planes and suggested I not stop this trip, but I never listen, do I? How could I forget or be too busy?

    Colin Powell said all they ask for is a piece of ground big enough to bury them. It meant a lot to me when I read it in his autobiography. Means more to me now. It’s easy to forget we are at war, especially when we can talk to each other from an internet cafe down the road from an armed conflict. Our fighting men and women have done such a good job keeping the war from us, some of us have forgotten the price some had to pay for the life we get to live. And I’ve said it more than once, some died so others could live to protest. Not fair, but the way of the world. Always has been. Someone makes the decision, someone else pays the price.

    No, there is a right way to say thank you. That is to just do it. Even if you’re rushing to catch a plane. Even in a crowded mall in the middle of the holiday season, or at a boardwalk or in a bus depot. Buy them a water, a coffee, tell them you care. Give them a book you’ve already read – one of your own! But do say thanks. Don’t think about it, just do it.

    And then go out and have the most fabulous life you can lead and inspire others to do the same.

    • November 16, 2010 11:30 pm

      Well said, Sharon. Well said.

      Wasn’t it William Tecumseh Sherman who said “War is hell” and opined that it was a good thing that war was so terrible lest we become too fond of it?

      Methinks our leaders of today would be wise to remember that as they continue to throw darts into the world’s Mercator maps.

      Alas, I believe we are only making it easier to forget our soldiers. As our military becomes more high-tech, the wars and their consequences become distant as well. An Air Force sergeant can guide a remote-piloted drone into Pakistan, fire a missile to kill an Al-Queda leader and then go home to his house in Seattle or Atlanta or wherever like it’s a 9-to-5 job.

      Well, I won’t prattle on. Thanks for thinking of our veterans.

    • November 17, 2010 8:20 pm

      I got tears reading your response. Well said.

  3. November 17, 2010 6:29 pm

    Not a lot I can add to all these good words – with you all the way!

  4. November 17, 2010 11:41 pm

    Good words. I have a habit of saluting people periodically. That’s just me keeping things light at work amongst my employees (I have over 100). This year I went to my local Memorial Day service because my son was performing alongside the high school jazz choir. Listening to the stories and being there made me feel small for not having served. I just came away with a feeling that although I may not have been doing anything necessarily wrong, I should simply leave saluting to those that actually deserve the practice.
    Thanks again for the words/comments,
    -Jimmy

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