I barely acknowledge it. I don’t hate it like I hate some stupid societal rituals but I don’t feel what I should about it. So, it comes. It goes. I should put on a better show than just buying a poppy, I suppose, but my father didn’t have much time for it. I learned from him. And he should know.
Seaforth Highlanders. Italy. WWII.
My father was wounded badly in a historic battle at Ortona. Hit by heavy artillery. Lay hanging in a tree in the battle ground for three days. Carried out on the dead cart. Received a 100% disability pension. They not only didn’t think he’d live, they thought that if he did, he’d be a vegetable. And they were right for about 15 years – like the plant in the Little Shop of Horrors, though. After that, he got a bit of life back but even then, it was corrupted by PTSD writ HUGE. He was pretty wrecked. Crazy dysfunctional. Dangerous dysfunctional. He was literally a ticking time bomb of violence for two decades.
If you get both your legs blown off in battle, you get an 80% disability pension. His was 100%. Think about that.
I have. I always wondered why 99% wasn’t the highest rating of disability and the top number – 100% – wasn’t reserved for dead. But, what do I know about war? I do know this: my father wouldn’t talk about it. Maybe once or twice. He thought it was all madness. Evil madness. Money madness. He didn’t think freedom or liberty or ‘our way of life’ or any of that had anything much to do with it – not up the ladder, anyway. The soldiers were just kids but they were okay. Governments were all complicit in war. They were NOT OKAY. Whatever was true, he never knew it. It was nothing but a big lie. It was about ego, empire, lies, money and more lies. He was not proud for having served his country. He was not a flag waver. He just survived a lie. He was fodder for a corporate agenda. And he knew it….too late.
Did the country stand behind him? Maybe. Some. Not much from my perspective. He got two years in the hospital (much of it in a coma). He got pounds of drugs for years. Literally. A box the size of a loaf of bread would be delivered every month. I once saw him pouring his pills down the toilet. “Dad, shouldn’t you be taking that stuff?”
“The war almost killed me. This stuff will kill me. And they know it. I flush them to stay alive.”
“Couldn’t you just send them back?”
“Then they would stop my pension.”
I guess I remember. I just remember it differently than I am supposed to. I remember the effects on my father, the effects on my mother, the effects on our splintered family. I distinctly remember the hugely dysfunctional community of veterans and their alcoholism, violence, and inability to cope with civilian life. I think a lot of people suffered other than just the soldiers but theirs was the worst. I feel for them. They were lied to. They were used. And then they were ignored.
Until Remembrance Day. And then they are dead.
OK….I’ve been thinking about that suppressed anger written above. I am NOT as angry over the past diabolical schemes of governments and corporations and their lies so much anymore. It was bad. Our family paid a huge price. I am angry still. But it is over and the past should not own me. The real anger is more fresh and present when I see those who were never there, never suffered, never served, walking somberly and saying platitudes, laying wreaths at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All those rich men. I get angry when I see Trudeau and Trump ‘posing’ and acting. Those bastards make me remember in all the wrong ways.