I was walking through Sears, back when there really was a Sears. Just walking through to go into the mall and do that most pointless and prosaic of activities: shop.
Still on my first cup of coffee, still disgruntled from being out of bed after having worked late the night before. I’m in the electronics section, not paying attention to anything in particular.
Then it strikes me: why the hell is the World Trade Center on fire?
I stop a minute, to watch one of the hundred or so TVs all showing the same thing. The sound is up, but — as usual— I just ignore the idiot talking.
An image, blurry and indistinct, of a plane. Of that plane flying into the second tower of the already burning, already doomed, WTC.
Then I did start to listen.
It sounds trite, it sounds like cheating to use a phrase so often tired and overworked, but everything really did change that day.
As ever, I keep myself and my own politics out of this blog…very intentionally. But…but…but, there’s always a but.
But, that day started a chain of events, and of stresses, that are leading very, very directly to that civil war here in the US that I think is so inevitable. Inevitable, and coming nearer.
Leaving aside Iraq and Afghanistan and the rest of the world, the US is beginning to tear itself apart. And this one won’t be the relatively simple two-sided affair of 150 years ago. No, this one will be seven- or eight-sided, with economics and geography and sociology creating a pool of hate, resentment and blood that will put the struggle of North and South to shame.
That is, however, not the topic of today’s post. Today’s post is here to pay my respects to those who are no longer around to type their idle and cynical thoughts sixteen years later. To the three thousand who died that day, and to those who died in the days and months and years since.
I’ve mentioned before that Naval History is a passion of mine. It is actually a mite more than that, and I have many good friends who were, and still are, in harm’s way.
A good friend was an officer aboard a destroyer that day, was headed back to port after a training exercise. No one believed the captain, at first, when he announced what had happened, announced they were heading back to sea.
My friend did not see the US for another nine months.
Another friend, ostensibly a “support” specialist who typically would live “in the rear with the gear”, was attached to an SOF element. He never saw home again.
Two examples. Two examples of the dozens I could give. Two examples just to offer some perspective. I could talk about the friend who never said “No” to a deployment, who is now paying with his soul for eight straight years of war and stress. Of another, an accountant by trade, who did enough to make even the most hardened and cynical of veterans sit up and take notice…and has never said a single word about it.
I am, I have said before, a libertarian. I don’t care what are your politics. I don’t particularly care what you do, so long as you don’t hurt anyone else. But today…today I talk about what I care about.
Don’t tell some random person “Thank you for your service.” Don’t throw five or ten bucks at some feel-good charity like Wounded Warrior.
Be real, do something real.
Give your time, give your passion. Money helps…oh, yes, does money help…but so much more do people help. The disconnect today between the military and the rest of the population has never been greater…and that is part of the problem.
Go to a VFW and talk. Don’t offer platitudes, don’t talk about yourself…buy some drinks and listen. Listen to those who know, those who lost and who understand the reality. Listen and learn, and make sure your children learn.
Give your time to a charity/clinic helping those with PTSD. I don’t care if you’re cleaning the fucking toilets, do something to help. I have too many friends, too many loved ones, who still hate and fear the nightmares to give two shits about your pride. Just help.
Throw a fishing trip, or a tailgate party, or a backyard barbecue, for those in your area who served, and those who are still serving. Don’t go to your Rolodex, don’t go to your own pool of friends, go to theirs.
And, by the way, the spouse who is still at home, who is trying to do it all, is just as much a hero…do not overlook them. Those still in the sandbox and the rockpile do not, of that I can assure you.
I am going to do something I have never done before: I am going to steal from someone I admire. This has nothing to do with politics today, with the White House today. I have my own opinions thereon, but they have nothing to do with this. Read the letter…read the letter and feel. Whether you agree with his politics or not is of no import; this man knows.
From: Kelly LtGen John F
Date: November 12, 2010 10:23:20 PM EST
Subject: FW: My Boy
Family and Friends,
As I think you all know by now our Robert was killed in action protecting our country, its people, and its values from a terrible and relentless enemy, on 9 Nov, in Sangin, Afghanistan. He was leading his Grunts on a dismounted patrol when he was taken. They are shaken, but will recover quickly and already back at it. He went quickly and thank God he did not suffer. In combat that is as good as it gets, and we are thankful. We are a broken hearted – but proud family. He was a wonderful and precious boy living a meaningful life. He was in exactly the place he wanted to be, doing exactly what he wanted to do, surrounded by the best men on this earth – his Marines and Navy Doc.
The nation he served has honored us with promoting him posthumously to First Lieutenant of Marines. We will bury our son, now 1stLt Robert Michael Kelly USMC, in Arlington National Cemetery on 22 Nov. Services will commence at 1245 at Fort Myers. We will likely have a memorial receiving at a yet to be designated funeral home on 21 Nov. The coffin will be closed. Our son Captain John Kelly USMC, himself a multi-tour combat veteran and the best big brother on this earth, will escort the body from Dover Air Force Base to Arlington. From the moment he was killed he has never been alone and will remain under the protection of a Marine to his final resting place.
Many have offered prayers for us and we thank you, but his wonderful wife Heather and the rest of the clan ask that you direct the majority of your prayers to his platoon of Marines, still in contact and in “harm’s way,” and at greater risk without his steady leadership.
Thank you all for the many kindnesses we could not get through this without you all. Thank you all for being there for us. The pain in unimaginable, and we could not do this without you.