Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Veterans' Day

Tomorrow, the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, is designated as a day to honor all veterans of all the wars, those living and those long gone, for their service and sacrifices.
I live with one of those men. I was nearly considered a veteran myself, having been a WAC one summer, but I don't really qualify except for knowing part of what these people went through.
All honor is theirs.

In my brief experience of boot camp and being treated as an officer...I saw all sides of the army and myself.
I was not suited for the rigors of military life. Here I was, 21 years old, sent off willingly to Anniston, Alabama (a hole in the world) in the middle of that ugly Vietnam war. I knew so many men over there...my own brother and eventual husband. They were there fighting for their lives while I was suffering in the hot Alabama sun.

It wasn't fun, even the brief time I spent in the army.
The tedium. Standing for hours for absolutely nothing. Learning army protocol then marching. Lining up to get a meal, eating in a rush to line up to stand for nothing again. Marching with a pack to nowhere. Crawling, jumping, climbing on an empty belly at dawn. Not my idea of fun summer camp.

But you want to know why?  How I got myself into that situation?
Because my college was closed down in protest to the war.

Jerks from Rutgers came up to agitate, causing all sorts of trouble. Two guys came into my lit class and started screaming. This was one of the classes I did not share with any veterans, but my brother was over there, risking his life for these morons.  One guy, I will describe in the immortal Eric Burdon's word as "a long haired leaping gnome" actually jumped over a desk in his fervor, right in front of me. I told him to get the hell out of my face because my brother was currently in Nam. I didn't appreciate this asshole with some red masking tape over one lens of his eyeglasses and red paint dripped over his t-shirt.
As I look back on it now, I see it as sort of a loud pantomime of reality. His, not mine.

So I decided to enlist or see if I could do something. I was filled with as much fervor as this guy, only pro-the soldiers serving at the time.
I went to an enlistment center and found out about spending my summer in Alabama at Fort McClellan, to learn how to be a WAC officer. I did take the opportunity. If I stayed, I'd have my college paid for. I would also owe the Army two further years of my life.
I went.
I learned lots of things: the Army is hard on the soft human body, it is loud and dangerous and exhausting. I also learned that there was way too much Mickey Mouse (military slang for bullshit) for me to tolerate. After all, I am not a physical person, I'm more mental and creative. But it was good to know what was going on and how necessary it is for some people to be in the military.
Just not me.

It is different now. Instead of being separate, women and men work together. I could never have done it. The women who qualified as Rangers were extraordinary. I'd never have been able to do all that without killing myself.
And women at that time were not allowed to carry firearms, except officers. Now they can blow the hell out of enemies...something I applaud, only I wish no one had to worry about such a horrible thing.

I wasn't military stuff, though I was asked repeatedly to sign up. A WAC didn't do much more than paperwork and fill in for men at that time. What they did was important and necessary, but not really active. The old laws about women being weaker than men held fast. And, their softness assisted in being something for the active men to want and date. Perhaps people thought that was their most important part of being in the military...it wasn't true, but people thought that. They actually thought WACS were whores. Nurses were treated differently, but in the old days, like WWII, WACS were not thought of highly enough.

It's different now. Or is it? I don't know for sure, but I understand that women are mistreated, raped, ignored, worried about, shot at, blown up...all while being women.

It wasn't for me. I learned a great deal and will never forget what I learned about the Army and war and the men and women who serve.
We owe them our very existence.
We should honor them every day.
We should thank God that they are willing to sacrifice themselves for their country if necessary.
They deserve so much more than our country seems to be willing to give them back.

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