The invisible soldiers

Ginmar, a military veteran of the Iraq war wading through the twisty maze of Veteran’s Affairs forms (all looking alike), is not celebrating the Memorial Day holiday this US long weekend:

We are now engaged in two more wars, and yet to step out of one’s house is to search in vain for any evidence of them. There is pomp and circumstance when the dead come home, yet often when the wounded arrive they face only paperwork and frustration. What does it say about a nation that it honors the dead and not the wounded who live amongst its civilians? How do you honor a sacrifice that is made every day, with every living moment, with one or two weekends a year?

By Monday evening more soldiers will die, yet in the US people will be drinking beer and roasting things on barbecues. Maybe they’ll put a yellow magnetic ribbon on their car.

Maybe they’ll just have a hangover on Tuesday.

People will drive drunk this weekend and die. The mail will not be delivered on Monday, but in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fighting and the dying will go on, while here, people will grab the last opportunity to get drunk for the holiday. Ironically enough, drinking is forbidden in both theatres, out of respect for the customs of the countries in which those soldiers fight. So soldiers are the only ones not celebrating their day.

Ginmar sees many older people volunteering at the VA hospitals because they remember the big wars of last century, and sometimes they talk about how the last wars were very visible for the folks at home, with posters and newsreels and the constant sense of someone they knew being in danger as they served. She walks around outside VA hospitals, and the current war is all but invisible in daily life and the soldiers who return wounded are not honoured or even served by the government who sent them into danger.

I don’t blame her for not celebrating the day.



Categories: Sociology

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