Yesterday my spouse and I were taking a morning walk in our neighborhood. We have the luxury of a fairly long “greenbelt” of parkway through the area, with lots of trees and grass. It’s the best thing about the neighborhood, really. It has been a saving grace for when most things have been closed due to the COVID restrictions here in California. The latest restrictions have been a rollback of places and times available to the regular citizen as the infection rate has gone up in my state. The rollback has not been met with much joy by, well, anyone, here. The months of quarantine have been long.
While we were walking, we approached a sizeable group of younger men seated in chairs on the grass, facing another man. The men were a diverse group, different skin tones and ethnic backgrounds. They fanned out underneath a large shade tree.
It became clear that this was a Bible study or church group gathering. Each person was distanced from the other, and they were outdoors, with no tent. The sky was a beautiful crisp blue.
As we passed, the man at the front of the group led them in prayer.
I caught the tail end of his prayer, and raised my hand in respect, as I might do inside a brick and mortar church during services.
“…we pray, in Jesus’ name…Amen.”
I respect the intention of getting together with God, outside the building, if it is closed to you for services. Pray with a stubborn faith.
If you can’t get in to the church, take the church outside with you.
The sight of these men together in peaceful worship gave me joy.
It’s Veteran’s Day in the United States. Armistice Day in other countries.
I wanted to this post to land at the 11th hour and the 11th minute, on November 11. In years past, that was when we would toast the veterans in the dining room. That was usually after the parade, the marching band, and the speeches, the endless speeches.
This year, I’m not sure there will be a parade, and I know that many of the celebrations of America’s veterans will be reduced and curtailed by the restrictions of the day.
As a woman who is a veteran, this saddens me.
I have a family that has long served this country in uniform. In fact, some go back to the men in blue during our Civil War. Union soldiers out of Pennsylvania. And there are family members who registered for WWI – and three out of four of my grandparents served in WWII. Paratrooper, Navigator, Women’s Army Corps.
Later, uncles served in Vietnam, peacetime, and then me, during Desert Storm so very long ago.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet people who served in all wars in the 20th century, and to meet those who have come back from recent stints. I’ve met people with missing limbs, bad backs, tinnitus, aphasia, all kinds of scars, physical and emotional.
Once upon a time not too long ago, I knew and loved a Pearl Harbor survivor. I knew a woman who survived the Holocaust and served the U.S. out of gratitude because we saved her and her sister. I still know many veterans, and I meet them with respect first, camaraderie second.
That’s not to say all veterans are good. After all, not all the apples on a tree will be ripe and pure. Some will be sour, some bitter, some ruined by worms. But you don’t condemn the tree for a few bad apples.
What I really want to say here is that if you know a veteran or are one yourself, it’s not just a day.
It’s an entire life.
You gave, and we all changed because of it. Saying “Thank you for your service” may not be big, broad, and bold enough to acknowledge the sacrifice you made in taking the oath to serve. It’s pretty scary when Uncle Sam suddenly has direction and control over your life. We can only hope that those in command lead honorably, with intelligence and compassion.
If you know a veteran, remember that what they did by serving was something most people are too frightened to do. Some are too selfish to put their lives on the line. Some are dismissive of those who do put the uniform on. Some still harbor anger over 50 years later for wars they didn’t agree with and administrations they didn’t respect. Some spat on those who served.
Don’t be a spitter. It doesn’t become you.
If you have the time, especially for our elder vets, ask them where they served, what they did. Many will tell you their tales. Of homesickness, lost loves, draft cards, letters from home. Some will speak of terror, HumVees, desert sands, berserkers, and nightmares. Some will still scan the horizon for snipers when they walk through their hometowns.
These are the people among us this day is for. Remember them. Pay your respects if you can. At the very least, thank them for their service.
This year, on July 4th, our neighbors really outdid themselves. They used a large, temporary painter’s scaffold to shoot various things in the air–wonderful colors and sparkly things–for nearly an hour, maybe more. It was better than many professional shows we’ve seen over the years. A few of us sat outside and watched the displays. Which went on all around us. We had revelers up and down the street, a few blocks over and southwest of us too. Everywhere you looked, there was a burst of color lighting the night.
It actually gave me some hope. There are people who will continue to celebrate this country, with all of its strengths and all of its faults. As will I.
Also discovered: I don’t twitch as much when someone throws an M-80 or a Cherry Bomb, as long as I can see it and where it’s going.
It sounded like we were on the edge of a battlefield. Only then it was literally, not just metaphorically. God Bless the USA. I hope we can rediscover unity someday soon. 🇺🇸 Maybe we did, for a little while, in the great big booming birthday celebration we just had.