Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Whole Lot More than a Spaghetti Dinner

(from a student in AMH 2020 online summer)

I grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The war in Vietnam was going strong during those years but I being a little girl, was oblivious. No one I knew was in the war. My Dad was safe at home with us and all was good in my little world.
In fourth grade however, I had my first experience with war. My fourth grade teacher, who I remember as being young and beautiful with her bouffant hairdo and A- line mini-dress was standing next to a strange man on this particular day. He was dressed in a uniform adorned with shiny metals and was very handsome. We had never had a visitor in our class before so we were cautiously excited. When our teacher finally introduced this soldier to us as her husband, we were all relieved. After all, a uniform to a 9 year old can be glamorous but it could also mean you are in trouble. The teacher went on to say that her husband had been in the Vietnam War and that he had been what was called a P.O.W. (Prisoner of War) for many years and had just been allowed to come home. The year was 1973. He spent the next hour showing us the most unique beautiful items while imprisoned using rocks and sticks. I watched his face intently during this time and saw something that a 9 year old would not know the word for. As an adult I know it was grief.
When asked to participate in the “mission” for our class, it just seemed this would be a good one for me to join in. I have had many volunteer opportunities over the years, from Cancer Fundraising to Prison Advocacy but never in this capacity. And even though it was only providing dinner and conversation, I found it very rewarding and interesting. I watched many of the vets while mingling and noticed that some had issues that were visible while others did not. I loved talking with them and learning about them. And all of them were so grateful.
There is something about the soldier that gets me. I don’t know if it is gratitude for keeping us free, for giving their lives selflessly for complete strangers, or the fact that I feel so lucky that my father and both of my sons were spared from the draft in all wars that have come and gone. Maybe it was a visit from a handsome soldier when I was nine that showed me what sacrifice truly is. Whatever it is, it is apparent when I’m at a parade and the military trucks come by with “our guys” hanging out of the sides of it because my reaction is always the same, I burst into tears, every time. They fought and died for us, so that we can live in a free country, so that we can have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For that we owe them everything. 1.a whole lot more than a spaghetti dinner.