War is fire and explosions and machine guns pounding and dying men screaming for help.
Military service is getting trained for that,
all the while the instructors knowing there is no preparing you
for being shot at, being wounded, and seeing those around you die or writhe in agony ...
with help nowhere in sight.
Serving is seeing corruption in all layers of the military, spiteful tugs-of-war between rival high-ranking officers ...
veteran sergeants receiving nonsense, sometimes suicidal, orders from green lieutenants.
Millions of dollars are spent in training our troops,
but mere cents go to treating the gaping wounds to the souls and spirits of those veterans who survived the madness.
There was a certain healing in WWII of the soldiers returning home by ship
where they had time to talk to one another of the hell they had gone through.
From Viet Nam onward,
individual soldiers leave a war zone by air and in a matter of hours, they return to a country
where lemonade is sold by children on street corners
and people look relaxed without the hollow eyes the soldier sees in the mirror.
Policy-makers little know what they are asking of the men they send into combat
and of the traumatized men who return from the wars they blithely start.
Soldiers deal with death. They take life away from others. This is a task we think belongs to God.
Young men (and now women) are whisked away from high school or college
and asked to take up the role of God.
And we wonder why they come back damaged.
Now, in this age of the remote-controlled drone,
a man can lay explosive waste to a compound in the Middle East and
return home to eat dinner with his wife and tiny daughter.
This is an insane world, facing insane enemies without moral compass or restraint.
So we ask insane things of our soldiers.
No man can walk a dark road of madness, violence, long stretches of boredom, filled with fury and strangers ...
without becoming a stranger to himself.
So, yes, veterans deserve a day to be valued.
Next time you see a veteran,
say a small prayer for him or her.
They've had their taste of Hell,
They could use a bit of Heaven.