Good day team,
“All wars are civil wars, because all men are brothers.” Francois Fenelon
This week, we’ll enjoy a day off on the 4th of July, the day we celebrate our country’s freedom through patriotic displays. Dramatic fireworks are the centerpiece of many July 4th celebrations – awe-inspiring displays symbolic of perhaps the greatest expression of patriotism, fighting in one’s country’s wars. This challenge is about honoring the soldiers who make that sacrifice.
This past week, an unusual experience reminded me of the wars we fight and the people who fight them for us. On Thursday evening, my husband and I headed off to have dinner with some friends. As we neared the restaurant, a railroad crossing brought us to a stop. The crossbars came down and the red railway lights blinked to let us know a train was coming. My husband commented, “Geez, now we’ll be late, this could take a while.” I agreed, with a long sigh.
As the train passed in front of us, we saw flatbed after flatbed carrying beat up armored personnel carriers, artillery, and ambulances with fading paint and camouflage. An armored personnel carrier (APC) is a fighting vehicle designed to transport infantry to, and hopefully from, the battlefield. Most are armed with a combination of artillery, machine guns, and mortars and are propelled by wheels or tracks.
I have seen army vehicles transported by train before. But this time was different – the APC’s were covered in dust, light colored desert dust, the kind of dust that comes from the sands of Afghanistan and Iraq. These foreign places seem very far away from my life in Portland – almost unreal. But they are very real to American soldiers fighting an often invisible enemy under very dangerous circumstances, in extreme weather conditions, with little relief.
A sinking feeling came over me as I imagined being a young soldier stuffed into a cramped metal box, dirty and sweaty, trying to breathe in suffocating heat, clueless about what might happen next – combat or boredom.
As the train continued to roll down the track, we sat in silence. Some of the APC’s had painted dragon heads with necks bent in the shape of a question mark. Others had long gun barrels with names stenciled on them such as “Athena”, “Duke” and “Delilah”. It seems odd that we humanize our weapons of war by naming them. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t ignore the ache in the pit of my stomach as I read them. There was something about seeing that dust and reading those names that made these wars in the Middle East so much more real.
I understood in that moment how easy it is to forget about these wars and the soldiers that fight them. It doesn’t really affect my daily life here in Portland. Occasionally, I hear of someone I know who lost a loved one or said goodbye to one that has just shipped out. But, by and large, I don’t think about it much.
This week, in honor of July 4th, I plan to spend some time honoring those who go to war. I could start by raising my awareness of the huge human consequences of war – a very personal matter of life, death or terrible injury. I know there are many veterans and their families who need help. Perhaps I’ll donate money or time to help them find work. Maybe I’ll say a prayer for the soldiers who are currently fighting in Afghanistan or write a letter to one of my Dad’s old Navy buddies just to brighten his day. When I watch a fireworks display, I’ll think of those who have to watch the real thing.
That’s my challenge for the week, perhaps it’s one that you can embrace as well.
Have a good week,
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