While walking down the road today, I had a few thoughts that I wanted to share.
One thing I thought about came from a brief interaction we had with a supporter. While walking down the road today, a man pulled up and asked if we were the Vets walking for Vets. We spoke, briefly, and he wanted to give us 20 dollars to help us out. He told us he’d lost a brother in Vietnam.
When we started walking again, I began to think about how war influences lives. War is not some nuclear particle with a half life. War does not diminish. It never goes away and it never a stops influencing. War doesn’t influence only the war fighter, it influences families, communities, friends, employers, and all those who never even serve. The war experience evolves. Sometimes, it evolves into something tangible. Sometimes, it evolves into something totally different. It evolves and becomes how we interact with friends and family. It evolves into how and what we teach our kids. It evolves into how we change the oil in our car– the systematic routines of our lives. The war experience doesn’t die when the war ends and it doesn’t end with the war fighter. It just evolves and becomes the way the next generation acts because of the evolution of war.
I started to think the only city that was immune to this evolution or influence was D.C. Then I realized I was just being cynical. War influences our politicians. It influences their talking points. It influences their agendas and party platforms. It influences their fiscal plans and arguments. It influences whether or not they’re going to give out a new contract or not.
What it doesn’t do, is influence them to seek out two Veterans walking down the side of the road to say thank you and give them 20 dollars because of something that influenced them for the first time over 40 years ago and has influenced every day for them since. That is what war does. It becomes, as the saying goes, the fabric of our lives. It permeates every aspect, every word. And that is what perpetuates the war forever in us. It has to. War is a defining experience. It isn’t just combat. It’s leaving friends and families. It’s being away from home and not knowing when or if you’ll return. It’s seeing places and things that you cannot describe to people who haven’t had their own eyes on them.
War for us, as Americans, has been on foreign soil during all of our lifetimes. But war does not stay in Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever our next battle is. It comes home and becomes the lessons we teach, the lessons that are then taught, and the lessons that continue. War manifests itself in us forever and then again. There is no way around that. The only lesson we never learn is how to avoid it again. Perhaps it’s because those who make those decisions have rarely served, rarely have family members serve, and rarely listen to those who have served with any willingness to learn from them instead of exploit them.
War is just forever. For the war fighter, if they cannot evolve with war, then they become extinct. If they cannot evolve beyond war, then every valuable lesson they learned before war becomes extinct. Every lesson on love and empathy and compassion and peace and hope and optimism becomes extinct in them forever. And every generation beyond that would have learned those great lessons misses the opportunity and war just becomes a bigger part of them, too.
Lastly, I’ve heard from many Veterans and those influenced by war that war shits on you. War, and all its experiences, straight up shit on you and makes the rest of your life terrible. I was thinking about that today… Here’s my take on that. I think war consumes you. I think when war gets its eyes on you, it salivates at the very thought of you. War, with every gnash of its teeth, chews you, swallows you, and then shits you out.
Then, politicians scoop you up and put you in a brown paper bag, put it on the door step of the VA, and set the bag on fire. Someone from the VA comes to the door and stomps it out. Then they tell you to get a job and quit bitching.
On a brighter, lighter note, we knocked out 20 miles today and had a great, great day. A wonderful family invited us for dinner and we will be back on the road again. The last several days have been very frustrating just sitting and waiting for supplies. But, we’re back on the road and feeling better for the experience.
See you on the trail,
Anthony and Tom