My sons, Cody and Max at a war memorial, 10 and 8 years old, 2008.
At first I thought they were making fun or at least making dumb. Sometimes it’s hard to tell with kids. Let me explain.
We’d just moved and I was using the pools of green on the navigation system’s map to find a park to play at with the boys. The first three green blobs turned out to be botanical gardens or golf courses. Then we found THE Park. It was like discovering Shangri La. A private park in a wealthy neighborhood.
We parked and the boys, Cody and Max, bolted ahead with rocket thrusters I no longer possessed. I caught up with them at beginning of the wide expanse of the gorgeous park. They were goofing around near a statue. It was a war memorial.
I gave them a disapproving look when they saw me. They both wore innocent expressions that shouted “Whu? Whu’d I do wrong?”
I told them what they were hopping around on like monkeys. They were really quiet as I explained to them that the names listed on the metal plaques were people who had died in wars. These were people from this park’s neighborhood and were divided up by war. WWII. The Vietnam War. I showed them the single name under the war in Iraq that had a beginning year with no ending year listed. In case they missed the gravity of that statement, I pointed out that that meant the war was still going on.
They were obviously stunned by what they were hearing, but I could see that, despite the fact that the war was still ongoing, they were encouraged by the fact that there was only one name, where there were so heartbreakingly many for the others.
They walked up to the statue and assumed the poses you see pictured in this post. It rocked me to my toes. Pride for my sons. Pride for those who had fallen in the service of our country. (I wasn’t cheapening the moment, I had to take pictures so Lizzie could see.)
I was never in service. I don’t agree with war. My parents both served during Vietnam, but they were hippies in the best sense of the word, and didn’t agree with war or fleeing to Canada, either. They served.
Though I would have served if my country had called, I believe war is the most insane activity mankind can involve itself in. But I have a deep respect for soldiers and don’t say this to belittle them in any way. My objections with war are that they are either a tragedy enacted by a government or a failure, to one degree or another, of a government to have kept a tragedy from coming into being. At the same time, when I watch Band of Bothers, my teeth still crack as my jaw clenches and my eyes still well with tears as my arms ache to feel the fury of a roaring Tommy gun.
I’m not a historian by any stretch of even a severely mentally deranged person’s imagination, but I do know that the people who are responsible for starting wars are rarely the ones who fight them. It is commonly the youth of a nation that fight wars, sent forth unto the fray by its elder leaders. A country sends its sons and daughters, and as a parent, how could I not feel something very strongly on the subject?
“Let me not mourn for men who have died fighting, but rather let me be glad that such heroes lived.”
–General George S. Patton, Jr.
Whenever military parents write in to our website, at home or deployed, I’m always profoundly touched. I cannot imagine it, as a parent, but I feel such a respect that any compliments that are paid or even simple LOLs are a special honor to receive.
As a kid, I fought elaborate wars with my G.I. Joe action figures. I used to take a pair of pliers to heat a nail red hot on our stove and put bullet holes and wounds in the plastic of my heroes and their enemies. I’m an artist and a writer so I flattered myself the ability to possibly better imagine the horrors of war. Then I grew up and filled in the blanks of my imagination with some of the hard realities. I have such admiration for the persistence of soldiers through those horrors, horrors that I only play acted as a child. For the ones that laid down their lives… I can’t even properly express my feelings.
The park memorial begins with these terribly beautiful and true words:
“Among these, uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
I salute you, men and women of service. I bow my head for those of you who have fallen in the love and service of your country.