Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Another beautiful day in the neighborhood, and I sure wish K. was here to spend it with me, grilling hot dogs and putting suntan lotion on my back. But I'm thinking of her, and all the men and women with her overseas, because this is Memorial Day, after all, not just opening day for grilling season.

It's very easy to think of the military as a monolithic other--something other people enlist, serve in, and run. Before I met K., I didn't know a single soul in uniform. My dad was in the Pacific with the Navy in WWII; the brother of an old girlfriend did some time in the Gulf War, and came back with a bunch of those persistent but nameless aliments now lumped under Gulf War Syndrome. What little familiarity I have now (mostly being able to recognize a handful of acronyms, which the service seems to love even more than microwaved boots* is due to the past year of hanging out with K. and meeting some of her fellow servicepeople, however briefly. They are very young, mostly, and beyond that it's impossible to generalize, because it's hard to imagine a group of people more diverse, in everything from race to their reason for being there.

I don't want anyone to be at war. But if we are, as a country, going to be in conflict around the world, it's worth taking the time to step back and just listen to what the people fighting have to say about their experiences.

* In units still wearing the standard shiny black boots--rather than the softer suede-y desert boots--the guys in particular get really obsessive about boot-shining. When you don't have a car on hand to detail, presumably you work on your boots. One trick is to zap them briefly in the microwave, which somehow helps set the polish so it can be rubbed to a mirrorlike shine. This is not something the women bother with, but the guys trade boot-shining techniques like NBA scores.

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