Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veteran's Day--Remember the Fallen

"I'm siting here now
Trying to put pen to paper
Trying to write something
That you can relate to

It's hard to relate 
To my personal circumstances
I'm out here in Afghanistan now
Taking my chances.

Read what you read
And say what you say
You want understand it
Until you've lived it day by day.

Poverty-stricken people
With medieval ways
Will wake your life without a thought
And now we're all the same
Each playing our part in this brutal game."
 --Alex Cockers, 2010*

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day. The banks will be closed. A few stores may observe the day. Libraries will probably be closed. When George Bush was asked years ago what we at home could do for this war effort he said, "Why don't you go shopping." And we did. And we do. Still. Here and there Veterans will gather for a parade. Old men with caps that remember how it was back there in Germany or France in World War II. Some will remember their time in Korea or Viet Nam or Afghanistan or Iraq. Mostly though those that half-line the streets will be old timers. While most of us go shopping--men and women who fought in our longest war called Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom--will stay home. They won't be shopping. 50,000 of them were wounded and some can't even leave the house. No. They won't join the parades. It is too painful. But they will remember. And across the land--others: Fathers, brothers and sisters will remember one or more of those 6,750 that lost their lives over there.

Few at home will take note of the number of civilians that have been killed in these wars. More than 753,399. Not to speak of the children and the old and the women and many of the men who lives will never be same there. As many here could agree.

Since 2001 2.5 million Americans have served in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard units. Of that number 37,000 have been deployed more than five times. Records show that 4000,000 have done three or more deployments. 670,000 of those veterans have been awarded disability status. These two wars have produced more disability claims per veteran than any other wars on the books.

Shopping won't do it. And evasion of these terrible facts will not erase the scars and damage and heartbreak that those that served will carry to their graves. So pause some time today or tomorrow and remember. Pray we can bring the rest of our troops home. Pray that we might learn some lessons from the stories we hear that could change all our lives. Maybe this nation, too.

*This poem was written by Alex Cockers. He was born in April 1985. He was a Royal Marines Commando from 2005-2009. He served on Operation Herrick five and seven in Helmand province for a total of 14 months.

He explains how he came to write this poem and others. "During my 14 months in Afghanistan, I had many feelings and thoughts that I was unable to share with anyone. Under the stars; in the desert,  rhymes would manifest in my head. I would write them down, construct them into poems and somehow I felt better for getting it off my chest."


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