Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg. I cried for the Japanese Americans interned; I cried for the "Fighting Sullivans," I cried for lives lost. It was very sobering.
Yesterday I was very touched when the National Anthem was played at the Mass I visited. Yes I cried. The readers were all veterans in uniform. I have written before about my military roots and the patriotism that seems inherent in me.
I was discussing this recently with a friend in her forties. She cannot understand how I can be so uninvolved in most political matters yet have this strong patriotism. I think a lot of it has to do with how I was raised and it also has to do with my age.
In the late 60's and early 70's --my formative years -- America was embroiled in conflicts in Cambodia and Vietnam. I started high-school in 1974 while the draft was still in effect. My sister was a senior and boys from her class and my cousin Kelly's class had to register for the Selective Service as they turned 18. The draft, though highly controversial, was a fact of life for us. A brief history lesson -- from 1969 onward, a lottery was in effect. Registered young men were classified and then called up in groups and forcibly conscripted to the military. I cannot adequately put into words my relief when the lottery ended in 1975 and I knew my younger brothers would not be required to serve. (By the way, it wasn't only 18 year-olds who were drafted; you were eligible until you reached age 35.)
My cousin Dennis, then a college student, was classified 1A. That meant he was certain to be called up and deployed. With a life threatening allergy to bee stings, he voluntarily joined the army to avoid certain deployment to Vietnam. My Uncle Frank had just finished his last tour in Vietnam and my Uncle John was still on active duty.
To me, the fighting in Vietnam was real. It was terrifying, it was horrifying and it was real. It was not a political cause in which one took sides. I did not not have the luxury of protesting the war; I was too busy hoping all those young men lived. The war was where young men from my hometown and from my family went to fight (and thankfully, survive). What I learned from the Vietnam war is that war changes people. War is a hard way to build a hero. It is even harder when those returning were met with protests and derision.
I was raised with the motto "Freedom isn't free." Whether or not I agree with the political motivations of the Presidents who committed us to the conflicts and wars, my family has fought for our freedom since 1675 in King Phillips War. (Did you even realize people were fighting on American soil in the 1600s?)
No matter your political leanings, today is Veteran's Day. I hope you will take the time to personally thank a veteran and say a prayer of thanks for the nearly 3 million patriots who have died in the service of our country.
Happy Veteran's Day!
Other posts on our military heroes:
Hand on my Heart for Veterans
Ponderings of a Patriot
To see how many members of the Huntley family have served in the United States military, please see this amazing website created by my Uncle Frank.