Today is Veteran’s Day. I am a veteran; and so is my father.
I served in the Navy; as a Hospital Corpsman. My enlistment was for four years, from 1990 – 1994; a standard contract that I entered into so that I could earn some money for college. I had few other options; coming from a poor family, and being a high school dropout. Our nation went to war only once during that time; the first Gulf War began four months into my term of service.
I did not go into that theater where we killed 300,000 Iraqis, in the space of a few months.
My father served for twenty-two years; the first four as a Marine, and then eighteen more in the Air Force. He was an air traffic controller. Our nation went to war only once during that time, in Vietnam (though there were other smaller conflicts throughout the world, the Cold War, The Bay of Pigs…). We killed 3,000,000 Vietnamese.
My father served multiple tours of duty in Vietnam.
Our nation has recently been to war in Iraq a second time, a study published in the Lancet: The British Journal of Medicine, estimated that we killed upwards of a million more Iraqis. One and a half million people killed by us in the space of thirteen years; between 1991 and 2004, with many more since then. Our government denied this number; saying that they did not keep accurate records of casualties.
The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…Aries, Nemesis, Strife.
We are waging war around the world still; in Iraq, in Afghanistan. No reliable information has been gathered about how many Afghans have been killed, since it began in 2001. Some commentators, most in fact; call it America’s longest war, though in truth we should all know it was not longer than our engagement in Vietnam, where my father’s generation fought and killed and died.
Today is November 11th. We used to celebrate this day as Armistice Day, to remember the end of World War I; when the fighting stopped along the lines, stopped suddenly, all at once at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month; as if the director of the war yelled “cut!” And all the actors on the stage, the pawns in their trenches, the people lying in their graves got up from what they were doing and went home. But that is not what happened. Sixteen million people were killed in that war, and it was perceived by those who endured it as so horrible that it was sure to be the war to end all wars, but that would not be the case.
Today is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours. He is the patron saint of soldiers; St. Martin of the Sword, the first Christian Soldier.
Pope Saint Gregory the Great, who gave us our calendar (among other things), penned his hagiography, though it is not likely that Martin ever even lived, making the story of his life just a lie. In writing his story Pope Gregory gave permission to Christians to takes up arms; giving Christian soldiers leave to march off to war.
The spirits of conflict have a will of their own…sometimes their will is our own.