I was thinking this Memorial Day morning about the fact that, despite all the traveling I have done and all the people I have met, I have never known anyone who has died in a war. And my country is AT war. Not only that, but I don't know anyone who has served or is serving in the current war. It is embarrassing to admit but the only person I even know OF in the Iraq war is my hairdresser's husband.
If aliens arrived this weekend, there's no way they'd believe that today is a day to remember veterans. This war is not connected to your average every day person because few people join up any longer. The people who join are the poor, the new citizens, those who want education, purpose, adventure, and sometimes those who have no other means of escape. The military is their way out or up. They might pay for it with their lives, a choice other classes and other people simply cannot imagine. . .
[Average people] don't realize that the person with the limp next to them is a vet, or the old codger they honked at charged up Omaha Beach. Female veterans are utterly invisible . . .
I do worry a lot about the fact that the elite classes in this country are relatively uninvolved in the military, compared to other classes and compared to the elites' involvement during other eras. As someone who grew up fairly privileged, I felt some obligation to military service when I was a teenager and young adult. (My father served in Vietnam as an enlisted man. He was an Ivy League grad in a platoon full of people who could barely read.) But I couldn't reconcile that sense of obligation with the fact that women are inevitably second class citizens in the military, and the worry about being sent off to a war that I might not support. Since I had the choice to opt out, I did. And now I live in a bubble utterly removed from all the young people who are fighting in Iraq because they didn't have the same range of choices I did.