There’s no exclamation point on that headline because this doesn’t seem like the kind of holiday in which we laugh and run around and eat too many jalapeno poppers for our own good. No, this is–in my lifelong civilian mind, at least–a time to reflect quietly on war and those we send off to fight and die in our wars. Not sure if the rest of you civilians have noticed, but we’ve been at war for a few decades now.
The veterans who’ve returned know, of course, but we civilians don’t seem to know how to talk to them about their experiences. The result is a pretty severe disconnect between those of us who thank them for the service but seem perfectly fine sending them off to fight in endless, pointless wars that kill a lot of people and cost a ton of treasure but never seem to end.
So how about this: since you’ve got all day today to goof off, why not read something about American veterans? Here are a few suggestions:
• “The American Soldier At The End Of History” – This essay, written by former infantryman Scott Beauchamp and published today in The Baffler, describes the disconnect between the civilian and the soldier in American society, and the troubles that causes.
• What It Is Like To Go To War – A brilliant and beautiful 2011 book, written by Vietnam vet Karl Marlantes, that honestly describes the emotional toll of combat on the soldier’s psyche and soul.
• “An Army Captain From Orange Died in a Vietnam POW Camp; His Remains Are Still Not Home” – This OC Weekly story, published on Nov. 6, tells the story of an Army Special Forces officer who died in a Vietnamese prison camp in 1967 but whose remains remain unreturned.
• “Transition Has Been Hell” – Story I wrote for MauiTime a few months ago about my good friend Chris Atencio, who committed suicide a few months after his discharge from the U.S. Army.
Photo of Maui Veterans Cemetery: Forest & Kim Starr/Wikimedia Commons