I was standing outside a storefront yesterday in Dunedin, Florida when a man pulls into the parking space in front of me. He was a thin elderly man, and he wore a cap that let me know he was a Korean War veteran. He had a hop in his step as he approached me, and a big half-toothless smile to greet me. “Good afternoon young man,” he says looking me square in the eye. “Thank you, same you to…hot huh?”, I replied back with an equally enthusiastic smile. “It’s just perfect today…just perfect.” Then he moved on down the sidewalk and left me only with a happy impression and a Memorial Day weekend memory.
My initial thoughts were thank God for men like that. I am able to stand here in this beautiful town with my family enjoying the day, because they fight the wars to make it so. Later however, the old soldier still on my mind, I began to think of it a little more deeply. Not the part regarding the bravery of our soldiers and their service to the citizens of the United States. I feel deep gratitude and glowing awe for what they do and have done. These thoughts centered on the soldiers and their lives. On the wars that never stop and the ones still to come.
I considered the old man and what he might have been like in the 1950’s as a soldier in Korea. What did he see? How did he feel? Did he kill anyone? Was he wounded himself? I wondered what memories he still carries of that time and how they have effected his life to this day. When he told me today was “just perfect” maybe he meant that anything beats a day like the ones in that god-forsaken war. I don’t know. He sure seemed happy. For sure happy to see and greet me. Maybe he was one of the lucky few. I don’t know.
My mind then drifted on about war and the plight of America since the end of the greatest war…World War II. It’s a silly statement to say some pretty amazing things have happened here since that time. Obviously. We, even most of the worst off of us, have had a pretty spectacular run of existence. Yet in the background, always perpetual and always threatening, has stood war. Always. The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Cold War, Reagan’s adventures in Libya and Grenada, The Persian Gulf War, The Conflict in Serbia and Bosnia, 9/11, The War in Iraq, The War in Afghanistan, The War on Terror and now The War in Libya. War, war and even more war. Why, why and for the love of God…WHY?
It is nearly impossible to consider all the pain, agony and grief that has come from all of the wars and conflicts the United States has taken part in. Grief to our soldiers, their families, their friends and the towns from where they come. Grief to all of the people and nations we fight against. War is not a video game. It’s horrifying and beyond the scope of normal imagination. Millions upon millions of lives caught up in all of those wars listed above, and all of the ones we never hear a word about. Each conflict promising to be the final solution. “If we can just win THIS war, there will be no more.” But we know it’s a lie. We know they will keep coming and we will keep pretending they won’t. I wish I could tell you I knew why. I don’t understand though…not even a little bit of me understands why it is like it is and seems destined to be this way. When a man is given a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing, and then right after expands existing wars and creates new ones, as President Obama has done, I no longer have the ability to logically consider war. I only mourn it. Cry over it. Worry about it and prepare for it. War will always be until our Lord returns to this earth to finally and mercifully end it for the remainder of eternity.
So as I fell asleep that night, I said a prayer for my brief friend. I asked God to look over him and to heal the wounds that may live in his soul. I ask God to do the same to me, and to use me as he will as a counter of any kind to this insanity. Never again will war seem justified to me. Justice lives beyond our world, and does not live inside the weapons of America or any other nation. This Memorial Day, as you spend happy time with your family and friends, take a moment to pray. Pray not only for the soldiers who have fallen, but for those they fought against. Beg God to heal us and heal our wicked hearts. Then ask him to come back…very soon.
The video below is something I created around a brilliant song written by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers. In his lyrics, he cuts right to the heart of how many American soldiers have felt. I hope you will listen and watch with an open heart and an open mind, and I hope it spurs you to consider your own feelings and thoughts about the tragedy that is…War.
Gary Wayne Abernathy