Friday, November 11, 2011

The way home...

My father dropped out of high school, at age 17, to join the Navy so he could fight the war in the Pacific... as a young signalman, on board a 100ft long amphibious landing craft he saw some of the most intense battles in history... and never once spoke of them.. Yes, he spoke of typhoons with massive waves, the beauty of the mountains of the Philippines and of the antics that only an 18 yr old with a "they-were-expendable" attitude can have on liberty...
But of war.. he never spoke.
Eventually, he went to college and moved into the Blue Ridge mountains, a place of immense, yet simple beauty. And that is where he and my mother established our home.

Had I ever considered to thank him on Veterans Day, as seems to be the fashion today, I'm pretty sure it would have made him uncomfortable.. It's just what he and the other members of the Greatest Generation did... they sacrificed their youth, willingly and gladly even, for nothing less than world freedom... How can you EVER thank someone enough for that???

My brothers and I (and our brother-in-law) are all veterans... in fact, between the four of us, we spent more than 68 years in either an active or active/reserve status...

For me, going in the Navy didn't take a whole lot of thought.. it's just what I did. I was an English major with dim job prospects (lifeguarding /coaching swimming in the summer and teaching skiing in the winter.. the dirt bag life.)
Besides, I had all the time in the world. "A four year commitment?? that's nothing!"

In the Navy, I worked with some of the most amazing people I have ever known... from all backgrounds, and am intensely proud to have them as friends..
Though there are years and miles between where we make our homes, there remains a closeness that that is not easily described nor is very similar to what my birth brothers and I have - a bond born of experiences, shared.

Everyone has their reasons for joining: sense of duty, honor, tradition, legacy. For others it's a ticket out... a chance to "see the world" ... a job. For me, it's just what I did. Not a lot of thought applied. I'm not sure why. But surely, no thanks were expected... none are needed. I was the one thankful.

It never occurred to me to thank my Dad for his service... and you know, it never occurred to me that anyone should ever thank me for mine... and I'm sure all of my brothers feel pretty much the same... In fact, when someone thanks me on Veterans Day, I almost have to ask, "for what?"

My generation was shoe-horned between the ends of both Viet Nam and the Cold War and the beginnings of the Global War on Terror -a period of recovery in which we were trying to find our way, and our national identity, again. It was a time of diverse military actions from Desert One, Lebanon and Grenada thru the Persian Gulf, Operation Desert Storm, Somalia, the Balkans...

For the past ten years we've been a country solidly at war - no more short term crises. Today's generation of veterans are so like my Dad's generation... there are no maybes when you sign... and young people still choose to join...

So, today, at 11.11am (on 11-11-11) I ran 11 miles across the mountains. Veterans Day, Armistice Day....a day to put down arms... I ran because I don't like the feeling of being thanked for doing something that I gained so much from... I ran to honor my brothers, all of them. I ran to honor my father, and his brothers.

I ran all the way home.

.. and I ran mostly, just to keep the faith with those who are still on their journey ..... home.