Monday, November 11, 2013

Undertakers of Rain: Veterans Day

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The armistice with Germany went into effect in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918. 11/11 or November 11th is Veterans Day here in the United States. This day is known in other countries as remembrance day, or armistice day. At any rate, it should be a solemn day because of what it commemorates. On the one hand, Veterans day is the ideal time to thank a vet. I get plenty of thanks. I thank other vets. On the other hand, perhaps Veterans Day should be a time to openly display gratitude for all ended wars. And perhaps we can show gratitude for all wars that need ending.

It was sometime in the early 2000s when I met Frank. He was a patron in the bar where I worked at the time. He had spent a number of years in the 1980s in the Persian Gulf monitoring the war between Iran and Iraq. My relationship with Frank was an interesting one. Sure, we shared a common past in the middle east. We also shared a small level of fury about the war in Afghanistan and the mounting acceptance the new war in Iraq was gaining. Frank and I and others openly protested the war. Many of these people were very politically minded, they protested George W. Bush and his administration. I just didn't want to see war happen in Iraq again. There was no need for it. The last war there proved to be nothing more than a way to sow seeds of uncertainty and instability in a place that never had much else. It's over now, and we'll be paying for it for a very long time.

The other thing that Frank and I shared was a good drunk at the VFW on Veterans Day. This was the one event to really get things going. I think we did this only twice, 2002 and 2003, maybe, I could be off in the years. There is something very peaceful about getting drunk at the VFW. Most of the men at the VFW are very old. There is very little else to say about it. I don't know why I found this time with Frank to be so special. After all, we could have been drunk on any day and for any reason and it would have been exactly how it was, two dudes drinking at a bar.

I see stickers on cars, service ribbons, MIA stickers, veteran plates. There is a big enough contingent of men and women who served. This year on November 11th, think about them. Thank them if you feel like it. Shake a hand. Veterans Day is for vets, yes, but remember, it's for the ones who are still living. Memorial Day honors those who died in service.

Ultimately, I would love to see the end of the American Legion. I would love to see the VFW go away. I will love to see Memorial Day and Veterans Day become historical occurrences. This will never happen in my lifetime. The only reason why these things will go away is if the members die and no new wars develop. Very unlikely.

I get it however, being in a place where you feel you might belong. I think we all feel like that. I see the camaraderie with more than military people. I think fraternal organizations do this: the elks, the moose, odd fellows. But these organizations are slowly drying up too. I suppose churches can encourage this feeling of belonging too. Never mind the mention of fraternities and sororities. What these organizations lack, of course, is a shared past, a violent one that knows no language but speaks English and French and Arabic and Vietnamese and Korean and Japanese and German and well, you get point.

These organizations, the VFW, the American Legion are busy organizations. They lobby for veterans' benefits. They build memorials. They welcome members who probably need a place to go.

What happens when there is no place to go?

In the case of Sam and John in Undertakers of Rain they forgo their annual VFW bender when the two characters get sober. Sam and John decided to throw a party because it simply becomes too late to go back to the VFW for drinks.

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