Veterans Day 2014

When I first heard of Soldier Ride I found out that there was one in Colorado Springs in the spring of the year.  I applied and listed that as my preferred location, assuming that they’d send me to it anyways to keep costs down.  Spring came and went with no word from WWP.  I was surprised several months later when they invited me to participate in the Phoenix Soldier Ride.  My folks live in Phoenix and at that time I didn’t fully understand what Soldier Ride was, so I jumped at it, assuming I was getting a free ride to see my folks.

On the first day of Soldier Ride I quickly realized that I’d underestimated the emotional impact of the event and that I would be cheating myself if I carried through with my plans of spending evenings with my Dad by the pool.  I’d already invited him to come out to the hotel to meet me, it was a travel day and people were trickling in.  My flight had gotten in in the morning and our first hard-time wasn’t ’til 5:00pm.  I had figured he and I could go walk around the nearby mall and stay out of the heat and catch up.  By the time I realized that I should be spending the time getting to know my fellow vets, he was already on his way and it was too late to cancel.

When he got there, I took him around and showed him the amount of effort being put into Soldier Ride on our behalf and gave him a better understanding of what the program was about.  But as we were walking around I almost felt…  ashamed.  That’s probably the wrong word, but I was sad and disappointed for him, that we were getting all this wonderful support and that when he came home from Vietnam he was forced to hide his service away and not talk about it to anyone.  I’ve been shot at, ambushed, blown up.  I’ve had friends die in combat.  I’ve volunteered to do things that scared the shit out of me and that I still hide from talking about on any serious, emotional level.  I know I’m carrying around a lot of baggage that I need to deal with.  I’m not trying to minimize anything that I’ve, we’ve done.  I’m glad that I’ve got all these resources to help us.  I’m just so disappointed that those that came before us didn’t have these great tools.

The last day was a travel day as well.  Breakfast and survey in the morning, then quick good-byes and people leaving.  Many drove, some were going out to the airport at various times throughout the day.  Earlier in the week I’d asked my parents to pick me up and hang out for an hour or two before going to the airport.  One of the guys there was on the same flight out as me and we’d become pretty good friends over the week.  I asked if he wanted to tag along and he jumped at it, deciding it was more fun to hang with us than sit at the airport.

There’s a military memorial across the street from the capitol building in Phoenix with some very moving tribute to the soldiers from Arizona who lost their lives in the various conflicts.  With no other idea of what to do while we were waiting I suggested that my Dad take us there.  It was, as always, an emotional experience.  But it was also interesting to stand back and watch my Dad talk/teach/elicit response in his quiet way.  He’d only just met my buddy but was already having an impact on his life by discussing the various monuments with him, listening to what the GWOT memorial meant to us, explaining what the Vietnam memorial meant to him.

I’ve got a tradition for Veterans Day.  I’ve written about it before, here and here.  What I do is generally buy shirts that are veteran themed, get permission from my HR Department and hand them out to employees and peers at the company that I work for who are vets, and let them know that there is an exception to dress code for Veterans Day and that they can wear them to work that day if they so desire.  In the past, I’d bought the basic Veteran shirt from RangerUP.  The first year I did this, I bought extras and gave them to friends and my Dad.  I was excited, Dad called me the day he got it and thanked me for it and has worn it multiple times since, with pride.  It’s made me very happy and proud to see him take pride in his service and open up more and more about it over the last decade or so.  This year I noticed they had a new shirt for Vietnam Vets.  Of course I had to get it!  Even though the shirts that I ordered for my new team at the new job haven’t shown up yet, he got his on Saturday.  I got the standard, low-key text from my Dad.  Probably something like “pretty cool shirt.  thanks.”

But the next day I got a couple pics (which he would kill me if he found out I posted one!).  He was so excited and liked the shirt so much he couldn’t wait ’til Veterans Day to wear it.  dadvet

 

It makes me happy, but it sure doesn’t feel like it’s enough.  You know what it is?  I just realized this as I’ve been typing the last couple sentences.  He’s my Dad, but he’s more now.  He’s a battle buddy, a comrade-in-arms.  And I feel guilty because I’ve got these resources to tap into that he doesn’t.  That’s not fair.  That’s not sharing my cold bottle of water with my gunner while we’re out on patrol.  That’s not sharing cookies fresh from home even though I really want to horde them all for myself.  That’s so much worse.  There’s a deeper bond between us now, as peers and I feel like I’m violating it.  I know I’m not.  I didn’t make the rules, I didn’t create the situation.  And I can’t deprive myself just because that’s the way the situation is.  But that’s how I feel about it.

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One Response to “Veterans Day 2014”

  1. […] More Blitherings: Veteran’s Day 2014 […]

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