The Road to 65, Mile 348: Veterans

November 11, 2015, Phoenix- I spent a goodly part of the day here, in a dental hygienist’s chair, getting a sketchy, but hardy, tooth lasered and shored-up.  As it happened, I was there during the 11th Minute of the 11th Hour, on the 11th Day of the Eleventh Month.  This is Armistice Day, called Veterans Day in the U.S. and Canada.  I was maintaining an armistice with my tooth, and we seem to realize that we need each other.

Seriously, though, I am a veteran- of the Vietnam Conflict.  I went over there in March, 1971, because a high school friend, snarky, energetic and self-confident though he was, had died over there.  I went over there because one of the most honest men I’ve ever known got shot through the throat, and lived to regain his voice.  I went over there because the first twenty years of my life had passed, in the words of a fellow soldier who had known nothing but constant indignity most of his life, “without a single hard day”.

I went to Vietnam to find the truth.  I found a corrupt regime, paying lip service to the American ideals, for which we were fighting and dying.  I found people who lived far differently from the way I had been raised, nonetheless telling me of their hopes and dreams for the future, and realizing they were not much different from mine.  I found that the human race makes the world a neighbourhood.

Veterans come home from war.  Some are welcomed.  Some are shunned.  Some neither welcome nor shun themselves; they just drift.  I see all three types on the streets, of any given town.  In Prescott, where I now live, we will enjoy a Midwestern variation of Paprika Chicken, served over rice.  That is of Hungarian origin, but is listed as an “Ohio specialty”.  Any veteran who wants, may partake of this, at our American Legion Post.  Then again, there are seven or eight establishments offering free food of one sort or another, to Veterans, during the course of the day.

I’ve been lucky.  My PTSD was minimal.  Veterans who have more severe cases, need all our support and consideration.  These are my free-flowing thoughts on Veterans’ Day, 2015.

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