Wednesday, November 11, 2009

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow"

Last week we got a Presidential order at work to lower all flags to half staff through today, Veterans Day, in memory of the 13 killed at Fort Hood.

Yesterday one of the housekeepers and I were talking about it and he said, "What I don't get is we lowered the flag for them but the week before 5 troops died in Afghanistan. What about them?"

"I don't know if you've noticed this," I said, "but we tend to be a rather conflicted nation".

Certainly the lives of those who die in our wars are as worthy of flag-lowering as anyone. Strictly speaking, we should be in a perpetual state of lowered flags, certainly as long as any conflict rages and anyone is willing to fight in those conflicts. But we don't. The simple truth is that a soldier who died in Iraq or Afghanistan last week had already accepted the risks. It's not that we want anyone to die in a war but by its very nature, war kills. So troops will be lost. What made Ft. Hood so horrific is that it happened here, not in theater. You're not supposed to be taken out on base. (The fact that the shooter was a Muslim adds a whole other awful dimension to the tragedy; but I'm not going to get all Lieberman on you about it. That all needs to play out sans hysterics, if you ask me).

Today, as a proud employee of the Veterans Administration, I have the day off. And while it will mostly be spent doing all the sorts of things one does on a day off, I will also be remembering. For me, the memories will be of the vets I met during this last year as I served their families. Some of them died, many of them got well. Some of them are very young and broken in their hearts and minds, suffering from PTSD and still struggling to "come home" even though they've been back for a while. Some of them are in wheelchairs and still feeling angry and resentful at the loss of mobility. Others are in wheelchairs and set the standard for spirit, bravery and sheer gumption. I'll be thinking of all these men and women and what they have given for a nation that always seems to struggle to do right by them.

But I will also be proud to work for a government agency that does its absolute best to do right. The VA delivers some of the best and most cutting edge health care around. It works tirelessly to help troops re-enter civilian life. It continues to address the problem of mental illness and homelessness among Veterans. (About 20-30% of all homeless folks are Veterans). The VA doesn't do anything perfectly; human beings work there. But we sure as hell try. It's the least we can do.

Whenever MAB and I meet a Veteran we always shake his/her hand, look 'em right in the eye and say, "Thank you for your service". The other day we said that to a gentleman and he said, "I don't say that. Service is what is expected of a soldier. It's just doing our duty. What I like to say is, 'Thank you for coming home'. That's pretty powerful.

So to all among my bloggy buddies to whom it applies, "Thank you for coming home". And thank you for being willing to serve where others were not. And for those who didn't make it home, thank you. We remember.



Blogger sageweb opined...

The flag being at half mast is a good point...I wonder why we dont do it at a national level. I believe if a soldier dies, the mayor of his hometown can ask for flags at half mast (locally) would be nice to see governors acknowledging that too. Maybe we should all write our governors...if the states started doing it..I think it would be shameful for the federal government to not follow through.

November 11, 2009 8:36 AM  
Blogger Willym opined...

Sadly my government does not lower the flag on Parliament Hill when one of our boys dies in Afghanistan. But there is a grass roots tribute each time a body arrives at Trenton Base - people including local fire departments and police line the highways and overpasses of the 184 km route on Hwy 401 between Trenton and Toronto and silently pay the tribute that our politicians are too f....g stupid observe.

November 11, 2009 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

Ba Ha Ha Ha

Wow! So, wheres my book?

Yay Senator Pstty Murray!!!

Our hero.



November 11, 2009 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous opined...

I believe that it isn't about putting a flag at half mast, or thanking a service man/woman for preforming their duty. Our country needs to provide more support and services for Warriors overseas and home.
Through some research I came across a site that is offering a free download for an audio therapy that aids in dealing with PTSD. This offer is extended to anyone experiencing stress and anxiety, but it is in honor of our Vets. Visit to see the therapy I am referring to.

November 11, 2009 11:54 AM  

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