A Veterans Day Remembrance
So Today Is Veteran’s Day
I’m a vet, but don’t thank me. What? No really don’t thank me. I’m still here, mostly intact and still breathing. I remember the first time that I saw a dead veteran. Local boy named Mike Wick. Couldn’t have been more than 19 maybe 20. He was laid out at the local funeral home. You could only see the innocent face and his torso in the casket. The rest of him was somewhere in a field or rice paddy in Viet Nam. My memory isn’t what it once was. I think I was about 16 at the time. And what did I do when I turned 18? I joined the Air Force. Perhaps somewhat for selfish reasons, maybe as a sense of giving something back to my country. My dad, a Marine, was not happy with my choice. He’d seen it all before, and though he was as patriotic a vet as I ever knew, he also knew that what was going on at the time in Viet Nam, was not a good idea. He marched in all the Memorial Day Parades, was a member of the Marine Corp. League and buried in his Dress Blues. (Semper Fi, old man.)
Me, I was fortunate not to have had to experience the carnage and destruction first hand. I went in in ’71, and the “war”, was winding down. But, I did get to see the empty souls of vets that came back, and were just biding their time till discharge. Innocence and futures lost in a place where we couldn’t even tell who the hell the “enemy” was. I think abut my boyhood friend, Bobby, Hatcher Rothe, still to this day struggling with the psychological scars of having seen it first hand. Gone is the memories of childhood and the days when we’d take his little red row boat, wheel it down to the East River, and motor across to the Bronx and up the channel. (Bailing water out of that boat we had no business being in.) We were young and naive, and so we thought, youthfully invincible. Bobby was a kid that made me a bike that when you sat on it, you were about six feet off the ground. Turned the frame upside down, put to long pieces of pipe in the neck and the seat and a steering wheel on the front for steerage. (He says he has a picture of it somewhere in a long forgotten box of something somewhere. Go find it Bob, and think of when life was less complicated.) He got me a job at a print shop in Williamsburgh where he set Linotype and I spent a lot of time in the bathroom with porno magazines that the old timers let us “look” at. Innocence of youth….. Thanks Bobby.
I’m not one for flag waving, singing of patriotic songs or mindlessly pledging allegiance to the Flag. That’s not to say that I don’t think we should be respectful and honor our veterans. I do think it’s important and meaningful to remember the fallen, the shattered lives and memories of those that served. I think that quiet reflection and observance works better for me. And I respect those that show their gratitude in ways that I don’t.
So, if you happen upon a stranger standing on the road asking to help a homeless vet, give him a hand up, not a hand out. Maybe he’s not a homeless vet, so what? He’s a fellow human being, down on his luck, maybe of his own making, but still one of us.
Happy Veterans Day? I never understood what’s “happy” about it.

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