Monday, September 26, 2005

War Sucks

There was a protest in Washington, DC, on Saturday, you may have heard. Against the war in Iraq. Against President Bush. Against a whole lot of things, I expect. What exactly they're for, they generally don't say.


On the Metro, Saturday night. Always full. That night, full of people coming back from the protest. Because, you know, at night they get to go home and escape whatever it is they're protesting. Not like, say, the ordinary Iraqis freed by this war. Or the soldiers, from America and Britain and Iraq and a host of other nations, doing the fighting.


One girl. White girl, about college age. Wearing a black T-shirt with big white letters in a font you might see in a cartoon which say "War Sucks."

Protester chic.

I'd worked that day. Eight hours in a hobby shop. Not a bad way to earn a little bit of your living, really. Meet a lot of people in this job. Lot of our customers are military, active and former. During the week, they stop by on their way home from work, just like anybody. In uniform, of course, because, well, they're on their way home from work.

Don't get too many in uniform on a Saturday, though.

Army captain. That's not unusual. He's not wearing BDUs. That's unusual. Generally it's forest camouflage, here in the city. But this captain is in his Class A uniform. Dress greens. 25th Division patch on the shoulder. Ribbons on his chest. Row upon row. More than most Army captains have, in my experience. Campaign ribbons from Afghanistan and Iraq. Decorations for valor.

"Anything I can help you find, sir?"

"No, just looking around. Not too many hobby shops in Hawaii."

Smile, nod. "Okay, just give a yell if you need anything." We go about our business.

Eventually he comes up to the counter with his purchase. One of my co-workers, who was once an Army officer himself, says hello. "Been assigned here or just on TDY?" he asked. TDY. Temporary duty.

"TDY," the captain says. "Arlington. Just flew in from Hawaii today. Escorting remains for burial." He looks down.

None of us know what to say. We ring up the sale, mumble a few words of thanks, and he's on his way.

To Arlington.

On the train, I remember his face. His words. His uniform. This is a man who knows at first hand just how much war sucks. Because he has gone to war, and he has come back from war, and now he is bringing home one of his soldiers in a box. He knows what it is to be in a foreign place while other men try to kill you. He knows what it means to be free, because he has seen those who once were not free and are now free because of the sacrifices made by he and the soldiers whose remains he is escorting for burial.

And I see the protester in her shirt. Tonight, she will return to her apartment and hang the shirt in her closet. War Sucks is put away for another day, to be brought back out at her convenience.

Tonight, the soldier will go his quarters and hang the uniform in the closet. Tomorrow, he will put it on again and go to Arlington, where they will lay his soldier to rest.

One day he will take the uniform off for the last time, but he will never quite put away War Sucks. Because he knows, far more than she ever will, exactly what it means when they say "War Sucks."

Update: Welcome to everyone arriving via Neptunus Lex, and thanks to lex himself for sending 'em.


Blogger FbL said...

I came over from Thank you for sharing this story!

Even though there isn't a day I don't think of the guys out there "in the middle of it" (and usually do something for them, too), I don't have a lot of personal interaction with them. But I had the chance to talk to a couple of Iraq vets last winter. It was so jarring to stand there and try to consider what they'd been through while I was safe and sound at home with no greater worry than paying the bills. It mostly left me struggling for the words to express my gratitude...

Reading your post was a great reminder (and an excellent juxtaposition of the Protestor vs. the Soldier). Thanks, again.

10:08 AM  
Anonymous Kris, in New England said...

Like "fbl", I came over from Lex as well. I like what you said about the protesters only telling you what they are against, never what they actually believe in. Mindless moonbats, all of them. Not an original idea in their heads - they just follow some vague self-described "leader" like sheep.

I understand all about free speech, but I have to believe our founding fathers are rolling in their graves to see what that particular ideal has been turned into.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Sgt. B. said...

That's a sweet comparison, and spot on...

(Yeah, came over from Lex's too...)

Thanks for penning it...

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, it was wonderfully written, and you're very welcome.

8:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, that was me by the way.


Never did much go in for these registration widgets...

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ha! I totally predicted the content of this post. Wait...

Although you know I come from a different political point of view, congrats on a very well written post.

"Mindless moonbats, all of them." Great, nothing like generalized name-calling.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Dirk Mothaar said...

Thanks for the post, Theodore. Nice blog, BTW.

6:59 PM  

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