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Commentary :: Politics : Social Welfare
Anti-War Son Salutes Veteran Parents
11 Nov 2004
Modified: 11:48:11 AM
An Anti-War Son Salutes His Veteran Parents
Last Sunday at my Unitarian Universalist Church the minister allowed herself to be replaced in the pulpit by members of a military families support group she invited to speak to us about their work. The military families and the minister were not asking anyone to support the war in Iraq (I don’t think there’s many, if any, members of our church that do), but to remember that military families are people, too, with loved ones in harm's way. The congregation was asked to call out the names of all veteran's past, or those presently serving in the military, from our families. I named both of my parents, my father the Korean War marine vet, as well as my mom, the Korean War WAC vet. There wasn't a family that wasn't touched; not a person in the congregation that didn’t call out a name or two or three. Just how militaristic has our society, our world, become? Every family is a military family - a scary thought.

Two questions kept rising up for me. Two questions I wanted to ask the wives and mothers in our sanctuary. Do you approve of the war your sons and husbands are fighting? I wanted to know their answer because I, for one, do not approve. I wish their sons and husbands no harm and I certainly don't want them dead, I want them home, but I also want to know why, why don't you question (or do you) who your asked to kill, who your family members are asked to kill and why? How and when is the military asked to defend the country, and why? The other question that burned me; that I wanted them to help me answer was: can I support your sons and husbands, "our troops" and at the same time not support the war? Can there be a war without warriors? Can they fight it without my support?

More and better questions followed - church does that - leaves you with lots of existential "what's, huh's, and Mmmm’s". Am I a pacifist? Only for the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time? Hell, it was my dad the ex-marine who said, he'd kill me if I ever joined the military and if the stupid bastards (this was during the Reagan years) ever started a draft again, he'd drive me to Canada himself. By the time I gotten through the small crowd to try talking to these people they were gone, I had spent too much time in my head again, thinking and talking about the veterans in my own family: my parents.

My dad was an ex-marine who told his employer to shove the loyalty oath they used to make all Massachusetts state college professors take. Yup, pop told him to shove it up his, well, you get the picture. Dad said the Chinese bullets flying past his head on those hills in Korea were all the loyalty oath he ever needed to take. My dad was marine boxing champion in his weight class for two years in the Asian theater - hell, it got him off the front lines. My dad dropped out of Ohio State University, where he was playing football for Woody Hayes on scholarship, to join the marines because he didn't want to play ball any more, didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. My dad says it took about a minute and a half of getting shot at in Korea at for him to figure out what he didn't want to do with his life - be in the marines.

My mom was in the Women's Army Corps. She was a dental hygienist in a medical unit, serving stateside in Texas. She loved the old MASH TV show because it reminded her of her time in active duty. A bunch of my mom's mementos are on display in the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington D.C. – a project she contributed not only mementos, but money and time and energy toward.

I’m anti-war son of not one, but two US military veterans. And I am that anti-war, progressive-minded guy largely due to their influence.

I grew up, not with a flag waving, America is number 1, military patriotism, but with a disdain for war and a profound respect and reverence for peace makers. My parents’ experiences in the military didn't make them want to send my brother and me to the army, but made them want to keep us from the military at all costs to keep us alive. My veteran parents wouldn't allow me to play with toy guns. My veteran parents taught me to take my hat off during the national anthem even though it's a war song. My veteran parents taught me to vote - always vote - too many veterans had died protecting my right to do so, and if I didn't too many politicians would send me off to die for reasons far less weighty. My veteran parents taught me that both men and women do serve our country and should be allowed to serve our country. My veteran parents taught me much about what’s right with America and that it needs protecting and that sometimes you need to fight for it, but not very often, if at all, with violence and force. They taught me might doesn't make right. They taught me the pen is mightier than the sword.

I learned a lot from my veteran parents, and I salute them on Veteran's Day.

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Re: Anti-War Son Salutes Veteran Parents
11 Nov 2004
It takes great courage to speak up, and I'm so happy that you are challenging people about being in the military and still being able to dissent. It also to give us progressives a better perspective of the diversity existing within the military, which sometimes we forget. Thank you for speaking up.