When I was a young man and thought I knew everything, I used to be condescending to those who served in the military. Some of that came from a liberal upbringing and education, some of it came from the idea that I would run like a chicken on a war front. The truth is I am more of a freezer than a runner, and probably would have stood there peeing my pants until I was either shot or captured.
My dad served in the army and was stationed in Germany, as a kid I was fascinated by that, but he was not much of a talker in those days. I never really got a feel for service although his was during peace time. He has since shared some stories, including being thrown in the brig, and I understand more now where my anti-authoritarian streak comes from.
My real life, or me discovering some humility, started on the streets. One of the things I came to realize was that a lot of veterans were helping me out with burgers and twenties. People who have had some real anxiety and trauma in there lives end up with soft hearts, once they get through some of the struggles. I am through being angry at rich people, but in contrast; people who appeared to have money often would look right through me like I was not even there. Still makes me a little sad.
I felt some debt to veterans for caring for a poor hobo who, at the time, did not care a lick for himself. So when I came off the streets, I tried to sign up for the Guard and was a little upset they found me to old to enlist. I also put in an application at McDonald’s, it seems no matter I was in this lovely country of ours, they were most kind to this hobo. Let’s here it for the deplorables.
Today’s veterans have it especially tough it seems. Suicide rates are beyond what I thought was possible. If you want to weep for something, weep for the anxiety many veterans still carry.
Trump has pledged to make veterans a priority and I believe many people say our government should be doing more. Well okay and all right. My theory is today’s veterans are coming back to fragmented communities, where so many things seem more important than caring for each other. They end up feeling isolated, alone, even around others. Unsafe to express the pain a mind that has experienced serious violence, can absorb.
It is more than fine to thank a veteran, but they need to be listened to and cared for. It can be uncomfortable to be around someone with different life experiences than you, around people who carry deep scars either within or without. Normal friendliness is the best approach and it is okay to say you feel uncomfortable and don’t know what to say.
Also, I know what it is like to shy away from people who can’t hide their physical and emotional pain. It reminds us of our own frailty and our own secrets we are trying to hide. I also know what it is like to be in a great deal of pain and be shied away from. It can leave you feeling less than human even though in many cases that is not the intention of those who avoid us. We all know what it is like to hide pain we feel those around us will not be able to handle or to understand. It leaves us lonely, confused and anxious.
But it is well worth it for both parties can stick around through the awkward moments and learn about each other, despite completely different life struggles. Our government hasn’t abandoned our veterans, we have. It is up to us to change that, to embrace them as the lovely human beings that they are.
Hobo John here, I love you with everything that I have. That is my heart song and the truth of things. Be the friend to others you so desperately need yourself.