I'd like to welcome all first time readers to my yearly Remembrance. This is the first Remembrance I will be posting to my Blog as well as sending out to friends and family. I'll even be sending it to a few people that are going to do a "Who is this?". Thank you all for your help and support this year.
This year I ran into an immovable wall; My brother-in-law. We locked horns about veterans, war, and combat. Before we jump into the story, it'll help to have a little background on both of us.
I grew up in the shadow of the Vietnam war around veterans and active personnel. My baby book has the first .22 caliber shell I ever fired, it was that important to my Father. I got a personal view of what war can do to people, both positively and negatively. I knew Vets who forgot who they were and others who kept trying to forget. When I was old enough to enlist, my parents said no - my Dad had already paid the check for our family.
My brother-in-law has traveled the world, never settling in one place for long. An artist at heart, he's lived in some interesting locales, and near-by to some bombings while he was in Israel. Aside from meeting a few veterans at parties, he's never been close to one.
The discussion started at a family party with his assertion that all US servicemen in Vietnam killed civilians. I did my best to stand up for the veterans, and was told to shut-up; this wasn't a debate. I could feel my anger rising as I tried to interject a few more times. Finally I decided my best course of action was to walk away, before I said something I'd regret. We'd speak again.
The next family gathering he said he wanted to understand. I've learned a lot from speaking with people that held views that were opposite my own so I went with him to discuss it. In hindsight, I should have asked for his definition of understanding as what happened was closer to my definition of arguing.
Although we spoke at length, covering topics from combat to veterans, individual choice to following orders, he seemed more focused on finding a point to argue about rather than exploring our different experiences and trying to understand. After a few hours of this, I realized that we were not going to agree and walked away. I was angry at myself for not adequately stating my case. I could not get him to understand, to see what I had seen. It was very hard for me to walk away and even harder to let it go.
The day after the debate with him I read Ben Stein's article in the NY Times "Lessons in Gratitude, At the Basement Sink" (NY Times requires a fee, the full article is linked from a different site). The article talks about being grateful for what we have, and for what we don't have. That may sound odd, but I think you are grateful that you are not in a combat zone. I bet, given the choice between being shot at by an angry Al Qaeda and commuting to work tomorrow, you're probably grateful for your job too.
And in some odd way, I'm grateful for the debate with my brother-in-law. Were it not for that debate I wouldn't have found a new strength in myself. I've never backed down or walked away from a debate on our Armed Forces. I may not serve on the front lines, but I do what I can back home. I had to retreat this time, it was hard, but it was the right move.
It is unlikely my brother-in-law will ever understand me, how I grew up or why I stand by our Armed Forces. I will always support our Troops. They stand up for us in the worst places in the world.
And I am grateful to them for it.