Memorial Day, 2014


MemorialDay2014Photography by D. Plasman

The body that once belonged to my father is buried beneath this gravestone. Born in 1920, he died in 1999, a few months shy of his 79th birthday. A World War II veteran, my dad never said much about his stint in the military. All I know for sure is that he was stationed in Calcutta, India, and was involved with supply planes that flew over “The Hump” (the Himalayan Mountains).

Like many of his generation, my dad came home from his military experience and re-assimilated into society. Most vets continued their schooling, got married, started families, or entered the work force. The vast majority returned to normal lives.

The current mess within the Veterans Administration reminds us that things are different for veterans these days. When it comes to homelessness and jobs, the Center for American Progress reported that two years ago, one in seven homeless adults were veterans; more than 4 in 10 homeless veterans were found unsheltered; over 30 percent of veterans between the ages of 18-24 were unemployed.

In our country the unwritten and unspoken truth gets revealed in all its ugliness: “Fight our dirty wars for us, and when you return you’ll contend with some level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and get funneled into our country’s impoverished and working poor who are forced to take jobs with long hours, low pay, and little opportunity for advancement. In all likelihood, you won’t have access to the very prosperities your military service sought to defend. And if you’re black or Hispanic, it will be worse.”

I see lots of “vets” holding up cardboard signs at busy intersections. I never know when it’s a scam, a con game, or the real thing. Whatever. I’m lucky I’ve never had to do it. I’m going to try to be more generous with my donations and the causes we support. I think my dad would approve.

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  1. Roberta Simon May 26, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    Being a Navy Brat for all of my unmarried life and an Army wife for many of my married years I know far to much how much is sacrificed by the men that serve our country. Unfortunately we have been in our current war for way to many years along with other countrys squabbles and business. It pain me so many of our vets returning from serveing our country tp fine a life of hardship and depression. One thing that strikes me as a problem is that my husband and father returned home and didn’t have to relive what they saw and did every night on television. My father never spoke of the three months he was lost at sea. He only told me about it when I asked shortly before his death in 2000. He served our country for 30 years! How do you forget this horror in your life when it’s repeated to you each day of your life? Let’s bring our troops home and let these countrys carry on the wars they have been fighting for hundreds of Years!!!!! We’ve had way to many of our young men and women suffer already.

  2. Beth Cafagna May 26, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    Thank you, Dan, for your thoughtful essay on veterans today. My brother in New Mexico is working with a non-profit to help underserved vets. My father, like yours, served in WWII (my dad was a stateside instructor in the Army Airforce). He came out of WWII and the horror of the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as a peace activist, and an advocate for peaceful resolution of international conflict. We all have to tell our government that we want NO MORE WAR, and to stop bankrupting our nation by paying for preparation for war. We have to advocate for the rebuilding of our own nation and the healing of those whose lives have been torn apart (physically, mentally, and emotionally) by years of recent warfare. We must keep working even though our efforts sometimes seem in vain. This is sanity, and Christianity.