I got called in to work a little early because they are doing a special Vet's day spread and needed a spare cub reporter to interview a couple of the vets that came in. I was grumbling on my way to work, imagining interminable rants from old guys about how kids today just don't unnerstand that freedom aint free and we're all spoiled rotten little commie brats that are content to drive rice-burners with peace stickers on them . . . you know, very stereotypical angry militaristic stuff that I've come to expect from vets because of my family.
But as soon as I got to talking to these guys I learned that they are, like all groups of people, not a bloc. They are incredibly diverse, broken to various degrees but nonetheless proud, and so very profound.
I talked to a guy who joined up at 17 and was told not to call himself a soldier during his duty in Southeast Asia because it was before Vietnam was "official."
I talked to the daughter of a vet suffering from dementia- a sweet old man who was shot twice before his 19th birthday and was only saved from a D-Day deployment due to the public outcry of stateside mothers who demanded that 18-year olds be spared from the invasion.
I talked to an ancient, slim WWII vet who, with tears in his eyes, said that while he was proud of his service and of his training, that he believes in peace.
"We're like firemen," he said. "We train all our lives to be the best we can be at what we do, and we pray- we pray to God- that we never have to do it."
His philosophy is much like mine- that we should be prepared to defend ourselves but that military intervention should be the absolute last answer. He fought and was injured in a war that was just and that furthered the cause of the world. But he believes that in all cases, we should be reluctant, not enthusiastic, about deploying force. I would hasten to call him a philosophical war hero.
I believe our President would call him "weak."