On this Veterans Day, 11-11-11, what would you tell yourself if you could go back in time and greet that young man recently returned home from the war?
War is never the answer, but only a failure on all sides to reach an answer.
I would tell that 22-year-old not to be angry at an enemy your country had demonized today. Tomorrow, his country may become a trading partner with us; that the enemies’ beliefs may one day become our beliefs, particularly if we seek enlightenment within, where his spiritual teachers tell all of us to look.
Don’t be mad at, or hold a grudge against, those who avoided what you simply called “doing your duty.” They too were afraid to face war, and deferred a life-long of their own hell in questioning if they could ever have been “man enough” to place themselves in harm’s way for the sake of another. Even if that “other’ was someone called “your buddy” in the “Bush” besides you, a Jew or Gentile, a White or Black, an Irishman or Greek.
They will never know how much you really became “alive” when you faced the real possibility of death. How you survived on nothing but your wits, your cunning and the compassion for your fellow men whose lives depended on your doing the right thing, doing your duty, even if it meant bringing injury to yourself to help the members of your squad, of your platoon.
You cared nothing about an economic system back home that might one day disintegrate from the greed crushing down from the top; or whether one fundamentalist group would seek to destroy another in the name of an Allah, a Jesus or a Jehovah.
Your purpose this Veterans Day — 11-11-11 — is to reaffirm your commitment to your fellow man, the one you looked after, and would have given your life to safeguard. He is as close to you today as he was years ago, and you can see him in the faces of every man, woman and child who wants no more from life than what you did when you took up your rifle and offered to protect everyone: to end suffering and to attain happiness.
Put down your weapon, Michael J.
Study war no more . . .