Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day Prayer

I spend disproportionate amount of my time thinking about war.

I've researched my grandfathers' service and the wars they took part in. I read my Grandpa's log from the Navy. I lived in Germany, walked through Hitler's hideaways, visited concentration camps. I wept at the bags of hair, fillings, shoes and glasses at Dachau and the stench of death at Auchwitz/Birkenau.

In the wake of 9.11 I spent endless days reading everything I could get my hands on to understand the conflicts that plagued the areas in those places where we went to war. As they waged on, and the articles became books, I read those too.

It occurs to me daily, that my son does not recall a single minute of his life when our country was not at war. I know that somehow, this affects his reality, or more appropriately is his reality, but longer term, I wonder how it will play out in his world view. Because his daily existence is largely safe and protected, will he grow up crass and with a disproportionate view of what this word, war, means?


And now, as my son reaches that pivotal age where he will begin to formulate a plan for his future, eventually make his own choices about how that will play out, I ponder what I'd do, as his mother if he chose to serve our country, fight our war.

For now, I know my first cousins choosing so is quite enough.

One: off to basic training and back to school.
Another: off to basic training and now in Korea.
Both: futures uncertain.

I watch their updates and pictures flash across Facebook and to me, they are still babies: the kids I chased around my Grandparents' farm, tied up with their own socks, tickled until they peed and threw effortlessly over my shoulder in a game of hide and seek.

They still are, in a lot of ways those babies, and yet they are among the thousands we send out in masses with this message of supporting and fighting to protect our freedoms: speech, movement, trade, our every means of existence really.

My cousins are in a lot of ways, much like my son; ignorant to how bad things could be, ignorant also to how lucky we as Americans are, and yet, they signed up to serve our country for reasons each their own: to live out a family legacy, to find a path, an assured future. It is admirable and admittedly for me, difficult to wrap my mind around, at times.

15 years ago when I was close to their ages, I chose to spend the better part of two years traveling Europe with reckless abandon, and later much of the United States, mostly alone and yet wholly ignorant to the idea that something quite awful could go very, very wrong at any given moment. Yet despite my hindsight view of multiple moments where things could have gone very, very wrong, they never did.

I always attributed that orb of safety that seemed to surround me to my great judgement at the time but years later I know that to be far from truth. In all my innocent, naive thought processes: it never even occurred to me that something could go wrong and likely therefore it never did.

My prayer for my cousins, and every one who serves on this Veteran's Day is this:

That they do not lose all of their sweet innocence as they leave boys, and come back largely men.

That their experiences enlighten them, such that they may enlighten others, about the wisdom that comes from living outside the United States.

That they can pass along their learning first hand just how blessed and lucky we surely are, as Americans.

And most importantly I pray this:

That against all odds they can maintain a piece of that blissful ignorance, the frame of mind that nothing could possibly go nothing will in fact go wrong.

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