Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

My dad is a veteran of World War II, but just barely. He enlisted in the army in the final months of the war, and was undergoing basic training when D-Day hit. He wanted to be a pilot, and though that did not happen, his interest in air flight continued to this day. He spent a full and successful career at Lockheed (back when people spent entire careers with one company), and continues to follow aeronautics in his retirement.

It was surely decades ago that I gave my father an American flag for, I don't know, his birthday, or Father's Day or Christmas; it was so long ago, I don't remember. It remains the best gift I ever gave him, as he proudly hangs it outside his house on every national holiday. It's travelled from Los Angeles to Atlanta to North Carolina, and by now is a bit tattered, and very weathered. I've offered to replace it for him, but he'll have none of it; he's proud of the flag, and I guess proud that his son gave it to him so many years ago.

I don't make my father proud all that often, so when it happens, I'll take it and run with it. I never served in the military, and don't know many who have. My generation was ever-so-slightly too young for Vietnam; in fact, I missed the draft by only a year or two. Once military service was no longer mandatory, nobody I knew ever joined up. Even today, I can think of only one of my peers who is a vet, my buddy Matt, about whom I wrote a while ago. And he's younger than I; I don't believe I know a single man my age who has served in the military.

That flag is flying outside Dad's house today, alerting the neighbors that a veteran lives here. It's not a very happy Veterans Day this year, with the atrocious massacre at Fort Hood casting a long shadow. Those soldiers who were slaughtered didn't get the chance to become veterans, and neither did Brian Bradshaw. Ever hear of him? Probably not. He was killed in Afghanistan on June 25, 2009. That was a big day in the news, one of the biggest of the year, as it was the date Michael Jackson died. So Brian's death, and others like his, passed without any kind of national acknowledgement. I've posted the below clip before, but I feel inclined to post it again today. I suppose it's better suited to Memorial Day, since the guy in question never became a veteran. For some reason, though, I wanted to see it again today; Brian Bradshaw, and all the thousands of other soldiers we've sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan, won't get to grow old like my dad, flying a faded flag outside his house on days such as this.