More Than a Yellow Ribbon

I went to Franklin’s Veterans Day parade Monday. It was a cloudy day, and the trees lining Main Street were yellow. At the square, two fire trucks sent their ladders up to touch and hoisted a huge flag for the parade to file under. This is my second year to go. I go in my father’s place. Dad went to Cleveland’s celebration on the courthouse lawn every year after he retired. Dad and his friends…Walter, Machine Gun Gong, the senator…who are all gone now. I take his VFW cap with the Lifetime Member gold pin on it and hold it up for all the old veterans to see. Tears came when one of the high school bands played the army song. We selected that for the end of Dad’s funeral as the flag-draped casket was removed from the chapel.

It must have been different back during the second world war. From stories I’ve heard, it seems that all the boys went. If they didn’t volunteer, they got drafted. When I was growing up, all my friends’ daddies had served. Gerri’s dad was at Normandy, injured, and had to tread water for a day or two until he was rescued. He lost a few fingers. The superintendent of our schools also lost two fingers; we made the Hook ‘Em Horns sign in his honor, behind his back. One classmate wore her dad’s Navy bellbottoms when they came into style in the 1960s. The VFW hut in my hometown even built a swimming pool for veterans’ families during the 60s. There were a lot of veterans. I daresay everybody I knew was connected somehow to service in World War II.

Not so today. Our country is in an unending war. Right off, I can’t say that I know anybody in the military today. I know a WWII vet, a Korean vet, several Vietnam vets, but I don’t know anyone who has served or is currently serving in the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Not sons, not nephews, not cousins, not neighbors, not friends’ sons. Well, Colleen’s nephew was actually on the march to Baghdad in 2003, and I did meet him after he got back to the States and a group of us had lunch at Puckett’s.

It’s almost like military service is a closed set, soldiers in a box set off from the mainstream–a comparatively small group doing the job. Like the set of accountants, or engineers, or teachers. I hear the phrase SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, and I see yellow ribbons tied around trees and slapped on the backs of cars. But I don’t buy it. If we were all supporting our troops, there’s no way in hell that 25% of the homeless in this country would be veterans. Shameful. Every troop we send to battle comes home affected. Trust me, it may be stuffed deep, but it’s there and it never goes away. I saw it in my father during his last year of life, sixty years after he was on the front lines. Deal with it. Deal with them. We must be prepared to support/pay for every troop every single day for the rest of their lives.

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