I was a child during the Vietnam War. A young teenager when we finally pulled out. My mother couldn't stand to watch the first televised images of war; at home we were shielded from its reality. I do, however, remember occasionally watching the news with my grandparents. I'm still haunted by those black and white images, taken on the run, jerking up and down on the screen. The grainy archival films from WWII, Japanese internment camps, and scenes from places like Auschwitz are also a permanent memory.
By the time I got to college, I was ready to protest. Even though the war had ended, POWs and MIAs were still over there and I was passionate about their safe return home. I couldn't find anyone who shared my desire to do something. So I wore the bracelet, my guy came home, and thoughts of war receded.
I will always be a child of the 70s. Make love, not war. Peace, love, and rock'n'roll. War is not healthy for children and other living things.
On Thanksgiving, I learned that my oldest nephew had angrily declared he was joining the military. Not out of some sense of loyalty to country or a burning desire to serve, but as a means to an end: to get away from his family of origin. He's finishing up school and hasn't acted on this decision. I know he's impulsive, especially when he's pissed. This could all quietly slip away.
And I pray that it does. I don't have children, I have nieces, nephews, a great-nephew, and two great-nieces. These are my kids. And my kids are not going to war. Not. my. kids. If there is a loving entity out there, please, not my kids. Less selfishly, I pray for the wars to end so it's not your kids either.
I have a couple of friends whose sons have chosen to serve. On Sunday, a group of us will be wrapping gifts to send to one friend's son and the soldiers in his company. Last night I was dashing around picking up gifts. Lip balm, foot powder, body lotion, on-the-go toothbrushes, gum, hard candy, nuts, dried fruit, powdered drink mixes, tube socks, tissues, disposable cameras. And fighting tears the entire time. This is the cold hard reality of what they need.
I haven't been able to face writing the holiday cards just yet. Cards being sent to nameless, faceless other people's kids. Time after time, I've walked by the cards sitting on the kitchen table and turned away. I've avoided them all week. Today I have to pull it together, rise above the pain in my heart, and at least write a brief note of thanks before signing my name.