The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

VETERANS DAY 2007 |

November 11, 2007

VETERANS DAY 2007
Name: CAPT Benjamin Tupper
Posting date: 11/11/07       
Returned from: Afghanistan

Veterans Day 2007 marks the six month anniversary of my return to the United States. A week doesn't go by but that I repeatedly catch myself saying I "just got back". My internal fact checker buzzes in and reminds me that this is not an accurate thing to be telling people, but I rarely correct myself. It feels accurate. It feels honest. It still feels like I got home last week.

The reasons why I still feel like I'm shaking Afghan dust out of my hair are twofold. Internally, I wake up most mornings happy to have survived a torturous visit into an Afghan Dreamscape of tension, stress, fear, and an impending sense of doom. Externally, and more to the point of this Veterans Day reflection, I'm physically in a country that seems to have no sense of personal sacrifice, and no national emotional consciousness of the fact that American soldiers are dying daily in two wars that are complex, long term (multi-generational), being fought half-assed, and unfortunately seem to be slipping away from our intended objectives.

The sense of sacrifice, urgency, and commitment at home is practically non-existent, save for those who literally have skin in the game (soldiers and their families), and a handful of motivated activists on the right and left who sincerely love the warrior no matter what battlefield they are bleeding on. The rest of America is marching to the drum of consumption, entertainment, immediate gratification, and ignorance, that drowns out the importance of Veterans Day.

However, there are brief moments when I feel like I'm home. When the stars align I can sense that the people around me understand what their country, right or wrong, has committed its youth and its patriots to wrestle with. In these moments I feel comfortable here, and I feel like the sacrifices of my comrades are at least being recognized.

Last week I had one of these moments. I attended a large sports-related event, and I felt this familiar sense of American ignorance about life outside our borders. Thousands of carefree people were gulping down beers and Cokes, chatting on about their daily lives and significant events. The cotton candy man strolled through the aisle in front of me, just like he did before I went to war. I sat there, equally amazed and disgusted that if you eavesdropped on the thousands of conversations going on, save one or two you would never know we were a country at war.

And then the National Anthem was played. The arena fell silent. I looked around at the faces surrounding me, and I saw, for the first time since I've been home, what I can only describe as a look of collective fear, and concern, and sorrow. For these short moments, as the familiar notes played, everyone was firmly reminded of what is going on. They couldn't escape it. They couldn't distract themselves with some factoid about work or the kids. They were confronted with the enormity of the mission, and its sacrifices.

I was glad to see the pained discomfort on their faces. While the man with the trumpet expertly played the final notes of the anthem, I choked back an emotional tide rising from my gut. Seeing these Americans share in this collective grief finally made me feel like I was home.

Comments

No matter where you go, there you are. Try not to project apathy & ignorance onto those hearts around you. Life happens and follows its' natural course dependant on geography and culture. Those enjoying a stateside afternoon sporting event may be no more or less invested in our nation's wars than you. I thank you for your dedication and find solace in your safe return home.

It took me amoment to really absorb what you were saying.To our civillian shame you are correct.In my small town it was buissiness as usual. Everyone more concerned with how we are going to put food on the table and save gas money to get to work for the week. I grew up in the 90's. This climate of war and broken domestic policies are new to me. I don't know anyone personally who serve in the war theatre. Two months ago a home town boy was killed in combat. I drove by his funeral on the way to the grocery store. I saw his some of his friend and family outside. I felt so sad. I felt like there was nothing I could do. I felt guilty driving by, my life going on as normal, while thiers crushed. I saw some flowers when I got to the store. I bought them and raced them stright back to the funeral home. I told them I did'nt know anyone there but asked if I could pay my respects, it just seemed disrespectful to just drive by like nothing happened. They welcomed me in.Vetrans from past wars lined the walls with flags holding them with respect. To my left was a breved wife with two little girls sitting on a couch two uniformed men(green army I think)on one knee holding herhand speaking to her softly,gently consoleing her. I made my way to the casket and laid the flowers on the floor at his feet. I moved to the back of the room and took a seat. I consentrated opened my hart to God and asked that he comfort the family, and welcome this soul to heaven. I looked at the casket one last time and I felt so sad and angry. I'm so sorry it took me so long to "feel it". I still don't understand it all. More and more we are feeling it, our people comming home and brave heroes who don't. The stories we are starting to hear. My family appreciate everyone of you. We don't know you but we love you and your families. I pray God keep you and protect you and for good luck here is an old Irish Blessing for your family...
MAY THE ROAD RISE TO MEET YOU
MAY THE WIND ALWAYS BE AT YOUR BACK
MAY THE SUN SHINE WARM UPON YOUR FACE, THE RAIN FALL SOFT UPON YOUR FEILDS,
UNTIL WE ALL MEET AGIN MAY GOD HOLD YOU ALL IN THE HOLLOW OF HIS HAND
Most Sincerely, Tracyann

I went to a Veterans Day parade this morning. It's easy to be reminded of Iraq and Afghanistan at an event like that, but most of the people in my city are like you described - unaware of the hazards being faced daily by soldiers and marines. I think it is symptomatic of our volunteer forces; when so many of us faced the possibility of a draft, we all had a stake in security. Now we depend on those who have a higher sense of responsibility for their country. It is you, and people like you, who we honor today. Thank you for your service.

oh I think more people are aware and concerned about the wars than you know. I'm sorry it seems as if we are only concerned about surviving our own pathetic excuses for a life. Thank you for your service and know that I pray daily for the safety of our military and others in service to our country and in harm's way.

We are out here thinking kind thoughts of our military every day. Starting with brushing teeth while reading Sand Box, eating cereal with military blogs, seeing the military news on TV while puting on shoes, while walking the dog checking with the young bride awaiting the return of her Marine this week.
Remembering warmly the times, places & people met when my husband served as a "doc" in the Air Force. Remembering as well standing on a street corner holding a sign that said "honk if you want peace". Remembering remembering..

I 'm grateful for our military always standing at the ready to protect and assist those in need....saddened that again our leaders have lacked the skills and wisdom to choose "do able" goals or adequately prepare operations to accomplish these nebulous goals.. all in our name ..remembering, remembering..proud and sad.

Capt. Tupper - Veterans Day is usually a solitary time for me. Before my Dad died 3 years ago, I'd take him to the ceremonies in the park of the town where the both of us grew up. Since then I seldom go to public ceremonies. I put out the 48-star flag that covered my father's brothers when they were re-interred at Henri Chapelle American Military Cemetary in Belgium after WWII and covered him when he died 3 years ago. I live in an older upper middle class development with maybe 75 neatly kept homes on tree lined streets. In the entire development on Veterans Day there were 2 flags other than mine that were up, both at houses where I know a vet resides.

This was the first time, though, in 39 years, prompted I think by the current conflict, that I publicly wore my ribbons from Vietnam. I was also at a sporting event, tho not a large one, while I had my ribbons on. A small number of people did say "Happy Veterans Day"; one of the participants asked me what my ribbons were for. I don't think any of them recognized the green-yellow-red" of the Vietnam service ribbon. Most of the vehicles at this event, vans and SUVs by and large, had the obligatory yellow ribbon bumber magnet supporting the troops.


It is, I believe, the ultimate shame of the nation that, as you say, "The sense of sacrifice, urgency, and commitment at home is practically non-existent, save for those who literally have skin in the game (soldiers and their families), and a handful of motivated activists on the right and left who sincerely love the warrior no matter what battlefield they are bleeding on. The rest of America is marching to the drum of consumption, entertainment, immediate gratification, and ignorance, that drowns out the importance of Veterans Day." Perhaps equally shameful is that the current administrtaion seems to want it this way.

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