Monday, November 11, 2013

Dad and the Military: A Contradiction for Me

1942 Army recruiting poster.
Veteran's Day is always a difficult "holiday" for me for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact that I am fiercely and unalterably anti-war. For many years, I have felt that it was inappropriate to build monuments to man's stupidity, but it is difficult to feel that way and still understand that many of the people who fought these wars believed they were trying to keep our country free. One of the wars actually was.

These were sometimes men and women of conviction; often men who were drafted against their will; almost always people who had no idea what they were getting into. The most common refrain I have heard from those who have fought wars in the past is, "We aren't heroes. We were fighting to stay alive and for those who fought with us." Many didn't and still don't know why they were fighting, only that they were.

All that sets up a quandary for me. My father was in the Army during World War II, an officer and a gentleman, I'll imagine, and the head of a munitions depot. He received his commission when he graduated from Virginia Tech in 1933 and enlisted for WWII soon after war was declared.

He always said that what he got from the Army in WWII was alcoholism and a smoking addiction that lasted until his death--at least partly caused by the two. He was proud to have served and even considered making the Army a career until it was discovered he had a serious medical condition and was to be given a medical discharge (this was after the war and he was a captain, being considered for a promotion). He was crushed by the planned discharge, went AWOL, got caught and sent to Levenworth Prison for a year.

That's just so Army: go to jail because you didn't say "May I".

So, do I publish a photo of my dad standing with his staff car during the big war and act like none of the other stuff happened, honoring him for something he never thought a lot about, or do I just shut up and let the whole thing pass? Probably the latter.

But, Dad, I'd sure love to sit on the porch and talk with you for a while.

No comments:

Post a Comment