Published on October 14, 2007 By pseudosoldier In Personal Relationships
This weekend is homecoming for Angelo State University, the local school in the city where I'm stationed. Of course, I'm not out there with the college students, not at the game, not at the bars. The Sergeant Major of our Battalion had a pair of tickets to the game that he wanted to give away earlier this week, but it sounded like there would be a PT competition for them... so no one in our company fell out of formation to go see him. Especially not me.

What business would I have in a bar or club with all those kids, anyway? But is it better that I seclude myself away in what passes for my home? A two bedroom apartment that I've taken because it's not bad enough that I feel guilty for having my sons here (when I do) but cheap enough that I can save money and pay off my debts? (At least my financial debts, for the spiritual and emotional debts that I have can't be resolved with half of my housing allowance per month) Coming home to this place, when it smells of what I've cooked, or the garbage that I need to empty, or the laundry that is piling up... or just the smell of me having lived in it.

The moving Viet Nam Memorial wall came to town earlier this week. A colleague of mine helped escort it into town with a local group of motorcycle enthuasiasts; actually, they're all veterans, and they placed the veterans of the Viet Nam conflict at the head of their group. The municipal constabulary was kind enough to give them a motorcycle escort as well. The Memorial is set up at Fort Concho, a historic military site that is no longer controlled by the United States Government, so I had no fear of showing up unshaven this morning.

Thursday was different, though. I was certainly shaven, and decked out in my Class A uniform, as part of (the head of, to my chagrin) the detail that raised the colors of the United States behind the Memorial. I'll be going back tomorrow evening to lower the colors and retire them as part of the closing ceremony before the Memorial moves on in its tour of the country. SSG J is going to see if he can escort it out of town as well; his father is a Viet Nam veteran, that's why it's important to him.

I thanked a Veteran today. I was grocery shopping, after I had visited the wall. I feel guity that I don't know anyone whose name is on the wall, in the same way that I feel guilty that I "only" know one soldier who has given his life in Iraq: Leonard M. Cowherd III. How can I feel guilty about things beyond my control? At least the guilt that weighs on me for not heading over there is more understandable. I could have gone to the 3rd Infantry Division instead of coming here to instruct. It'll only be a month or so before some of my students' boots hit the ground over in Iraq, long before I will (if I ever get there). But I walked up to this gentleman in the check out line, because he was wearing a "Viet Nam Veteran" hat with a Purple Heart pin on it, and I shook his hand and said, "Sir, I just wanted to thank you for your service."

I've been avoiding Leonard all weekend. NetFlix finally got in copies of Last Letters Home and it has hit the top of my queue, arriving in my mailbox on Thursday. Or Friday. I've forgotten. I don't want to see his father, one of my Scoutmasters from during high school, looking as pale and ... human? as my father told me he looks in the documentary. I'm not brave enough to contact him, to tell him that I'm proud to have known his son, because I'm afraid that it will sound hollow, as hollow as "thank you for your service."

It is (was, the 13th) my brother's birthday. He turned 40, and I've been dreaming about him this week. I miss him, but the dreams are off. Earlier this week, I imagined that we were both living in our parents' house, and I had no privacy from him. He was nearly tormenting me about it. Tonight (I slept a bit, earlier; at least I'm finally getting some sleep), I was visiting with him and he acted so strangely. He missed his nephews, and I couldn't explain why they weren't there. In the dream, it was my birthday, but he had some odd ideas for presents... not that there was anything creepy about it, just that the DVDs he gave me were both bought used and weren't particularly anything that I would like. And he seemed sad, depressed even, and not right.

But maybe I was projecting.

I watched a movie earlier this week: Masters of Horror: Joe Dante: Homecoming. I fully expected it to make me angry, the entire premise of the film was an upsetting idea. Soldiers killed in the war in Iraq were brought back by a poorly worded wish by a neocon pundit and, instead of showing "how proud they were to serve their country" (a paraphrasing as I'm too lazy/tired to look it up exactly), they instead won't rest... until they get to vote against the incumbent president. The movie was actually well done overall, but it was that underlying idea that irked me. Not that they were voting against Bush and the Republican party (while they never named the Prez, COME ON), that would be stupid for me to be upset over... that the film seemed to rail against conservative pundits and politicians using "the troops" as a shield for their idealogy, as ammunition in a talking points war... and then they did the same thing, assuming that the soldiers would be against it as much as the conservatives portrayed in the film thought they'd be for it. I can't reccomend it.

Soldiers serve, and fight, and die, for so many different reasons. But they do serve, and they do fight, and they do die. And that's more than enough.

on Oct 14, 2007
I wish there was something I could say to you to ease your feelings of guilt, but sometimes I wrestle with the same emotions. To be in the Army and not be able to get deployed is somewhat a slap in the face to me. Especially with all the Soldiers who go AWOL just to avoid their commitment. I wish I could say that I still wanted to deploy but my priorities in life have changed recently. I wouldnt shirk out of it though if I were tapped to go. You are doing your part though, I believe, with training the Soldiers of tomorrow. I know it sounds really corny of me to say that, but the Soldiers that you are training are going to be here after your time in the Army is up. Who better to train them than you?

I am sure you made that Vet's day at the store. He probably doesnt hear "thank you" enough. There is no need to feel guilty about not knowing anyone on the Vietnam Wall or only knowing 1 from this war. I dont know anyone who has been killed in either. And it shouldnt be a competition. So, if you know 10 Soldiers who have died, does that make you any better than someone who only knows 1 who has been killed? I am sure that Leonard was a great person and it is important to celebrate his life and the sacrifice that he made, but not at the expense of your mental health. I think you should call his father and if not talk to him about his son, just to talk to him. I think you would feel better. And I am sure he would appreciate the thought and time it took for you to call or write.

I am not saying any of this to be mean (I hope you picked up on that). I just hate reading something like this where you are putting your self down in almost every paragraph. I have said this before and it is worth saying again and again as many times as I have to say it : you are a wonderful person and I am more than grateful to have youa s a friend.