My First Virtual Veterans Day Card
I’ve been sending Veterans Day Cards to various family members for about 10 years. My paternal family has three generations of military service. Add to that family by marriage, and I’m sure it goes back to WWI. It’s my way of saying thanks for doing something that I, as a woman, would not be asked to do–serve in the military. So, I figured expressing my thanks to those who served was fitting. Many of the Veterans I sent my first round of cards to were honestly touched, so I figured I’d start a tradition of it.
This year, like last year, I find myself ill and busy and unable to send out cards via mail. So, I’m employing my nerdiness and making a Virtual Card. This enables me to spread this message to more Veterans, and it also gives me an opportunity to explain why Veteran’s Day means enough to me to send out cards.
When I was around 7, I think, my Dad got a shirt that he gave me a few years ago. It reads: “PARTICIPANT: Southeast Asia War Games, 1961-1975, SECOND PLACE.” I asked my Dad what it meant, and he explained that the shirt is a joke because we lost the Vietnam War, and he was in it before he got married.
At that age, I thought nearly all Dads were Veterans. As in, you finish high school, you go into the service, you get out, and then get married & start a family. As I grew older, I understood that wasn’t true. My paternal family’s military history is probably similar to many Latino Families–Fighting in WWII enabled them to accomplish their dreams of a better life for their children via the benefits they were offered if they came home. Sad the price was often tarnishing their souls, and even sadder that many of them never came home, like my paternal Great Uncle, Carlos García Vargas, who died on 10/24/1944 on the Arisan Maru with approximately 1700 other men who had been POW’s for a couple of years.
Another influence on me was the TV show M*A*S*H, which was a staple of my childhood. Indeed, “Abyssinia, Henry,” the episode where Lt. Col. Henry Blake is killed off, aired the day before I was born. Saigon fell four days after I was Baptized. My Godfather, like my Father, are Vietnam Vets.
My Father used his lifelong passion of running as his way to deal with his experiences in Vietnam, where he fought in the Tet Offensive. As an adult, I am grateful he had that outlet, as it enabled him to be a loving husband and father.
The older I got, the more I began to understand the impact of war on a person’s soul. I also began to understand and appreciate the dedication it takes to be a soldier, even if one does not see combat.
The Cold War ended shortly after I started high school. The first Gulf War was during my sophomore year of high school, and I feared that they’d reinstate the draft and I’d lose all my guy friends who were about to turn 18. I supported the soldiers in that conflict, which, I would later find out, included my Nephew Harry’s Papa.
It was also around that time that I began to understand the stigma of The Vietnam Vet. A lot of movies on that theme were cropping up, and my Dad was very eager to see all of them. I now understand why, and I kind of felt sorry for him the time my Mom expressed annoyance at having to go to “yet another one of these Vietnam movies.” In retrospect, I suppose the strength that she and other wives of Vietnam Vets have had to display in private is beyond my comprehension, and I just caught her at a bad moment.
My Dad returned to Vietnam in 1999, as a way to start making peace with that part of his life. He’s blossomed as a person as a result. 🙂
The current conflicts in the Middle East started on my 28th birthday. I have a cousin (my Godfather’s son-in-law) who is a Marine currently serving in that conflict. I have another cousin who has lost a friend in those conflicts (Lance Corporal Hugo Lopez), just one of thousands lost.
At the same time, I’ll never forget what a Marine Veteran of this current conflict told me when I thanked him for his service. “I volunteered for it, Ma’am. As I was told in Basic–‘USMC means you signed the M-F contract.'”
To all those Veterans reading this, Happy Veterans Day, and you have my eternal gratitude for your service.
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