In the past little while, a month maybe six weeks, time escapes me (it flees), we’ve worked with a couple of veterans. They’re veterans of wars that never were, Iran and Afghanistan. Congress has not made a declaration of war since 1942. That’s quite something. Wars are not wars anymore, they’re conflicts and military operations with trendy names like Enduring Freedom. It’s enough to gag a maggot.
I don’t know what about these young men. I don’t. I like people so I’m good on the phone. People get it because I get them. The first vet mentioned an appointment at the VA and he mentioned school. We talked several times. As you may recall, I enjoy a conversation. I have no recollection of what he’s studying or if he told me. I know the guy needs an objective hug. We talked about his heart thumping anxiety over finals. I told him not to worry, “Do your best and give it up.” He did a great job, disappointed because his overachieving self got a flat A rather than A+ on one of the exams, ended up with a respectable GPA. He’s an older non-traditional student. I can understand that two tours in an unconfirmed war zone might make a person something of a non-conformist. I like him. He takes his wife out for lunch and they enjoy the day because they’re happy to be alive together.
The second vet is so damn earnest, trying so hard, that I could just cry. He has a wife too, loves her with all his heart. He will do the right thing if it means giving up all that he’s managed to salvage of himself. He told me that he was uncomfortable in the civilian world after he got out. I get that, regimentation gone, camaraderie gone, purpose gone, adrenaline gone-nothing to replace that intensity, not love, money, booze, or rock-n-roll. It can’t be replicated. Bless his pea-pickin’ heart, he lateraled over to the Coast Guard, not the same at all, by any stretch of the imagination. He couldn’t afford to pay the price for our services. I knew it would be a challenge. He’s so earnest. I let him pay some for dignity maintenance. He needs an objective hug.
I have a nephew-in-law. He makes my niece happy. He spent 10 years as a Marine, most of that time engaged in operations that felt like war. He’s been out for a while and he’d like to get back in as a reservist. He has to return to boot camp. WTF?! Boot camp, really? He’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan, more than once, boot camp? It doesn’t square. We come from different political and policy spheres. There are things I don’t like because I don’t understand. I understand this- he loves my niece, he’s funny, and he’s a great dad. We civilians appear somewhat frivolous to him. The intensity is not there in the selfies. He doesn’t understand how civilian life became superficial while he was gone. It confuses him; why was he dodging bullets while America was at the mall?
They share a common trait. They can’t look at us for very long. They look away. Their view is elsewhere, mostly on their feet.
A little something from veterans thinking about what veterans are thinking. It isn’t enough to be against policy, you have to decide what to support.