I am digging a trench tonight. As it doesn’t take a whole lot of thought to dig a trench, I let my mind wander around a bit. One of my first thoughts surprised me. I realized that I had a harder time digging two years ago then I do today. How can that be? I’ve had Parkinson’s disease for 8 years now. Two years ago, I could work for ten minutes before becoming so fatigued I would have to sit down and rest. Tonight, I worked for two hours. I may pay the price for overdoing it, but it will be worth it!
After this thought flit through, my mind went on to another topic. Today was Memorial Day, the day we honor the soldiers who have fallen in service of their country. What does that mean to me? We had a very traditional Memorial Day celebration. Chris put out the flag and we invited my parents over for a barbeque. It doesn’t get more traditional than that, but what does this have to do with Memorial Day?
Having settled in on this topic, my mind began delving into some uncomfortable stuff. I’ve always considered myself to be a pacifist. I’ve never believed that we should go to other countries and kill people. Aren’t we intelligent enough to figure out a different way to solve our differences? I’ve struggled with the idea of supporting our soldiers. Am I supporting war and violence and killing, if I say I support our soldiers? I am not always so sure of our government’s motives to be certain that their sacrifice is for a noble, worthy cause.
The trench is getting deeper. When it is deep enough, I will bury chicken wire in it. I am determined to make the pens for our chickens, ducks, and geese, predator proof. The buried wire is to discourage foxes and raccoons from digging under for a late night snack.
My father and my father-in-law were veterans. My father-in-law parachuted into enemy territory, not because their plane had been shot down, but because of some stupid argument between two of the crew and a miscommunication that led them to run out of fuel. That I know of, he only spoke of this once. My father had a different experience. He was on board ship in the north Pacific and the biggest enemy he battled was the sea. My uncle was in major combat during WWII, fighting opposite Patton’s company. He came back with post traumatic stress and nothing kind to say about General Patton.
My trench is deep now, the chicken wire is in. The next task is to fill it up with dirt and tamp it down. My makeshift duck and goose house is built with cinder blocks. It looks like a fortress and Chris suggested we put turrets on top.
There have been former students of mine who have enlisted in military service. So far, they have all come back safely, though each has had challenges in entering back into civilian life. More than one has gone from battling enemies overseas to battling enemies within themselves, such as alcoholism, drug abuse, and depression. They are making it, however, and I cheer them on whenever I can.
My trench is nearly done. When the geese are fully grown, I shouldn’t have to worry about foxes. A full grown male goose is capable of defending itself. The man who sold us our goslings once saw a goose tear a fox to shreds. Geese are normally docile creatures.
Some soldiers are killed in service of their country. Some soldiers kill in service of their country. That is a sacrifice, too. I’ve known a number of veterans over the last ten years and I have learned much about their experiences. They, and their families, have to believe that their work was necessary and honorable. They have to believe there is a reason for their sacrifice. The veterans I have known will talk proudly about their service; however, when they talk of specific experiences, they all say the same thing: War is stupid and ugly and there should be a better way.
Even though I still consider myself to be a pacifist, I know there aren’t any easy answers to conflicts in our world. I hold out hope that we can learn to solve those conflicts in nonviolent ways. I don’t know whether our government’s motives have always been honorable, however, I have no doubt that the young men and women who enlist believe in what they are doing. They are our warriors, defending our country. They deserve our support. My hope for all of our warriors is that they will never be asked to do anything that isn’t worthy of the sacrifice they are making for their country. I hope they will always see others, even the “enemy”, as real people. No one gives their service as a warrior, regardless of how honorable that service may be, and comes through it unscathed. I hope all of our warriors come back and are able to put together all the pieces of their lives, and heal.
My trench is finished, the dirt packed down tight around the wire fencing. Now my mind will stop its wandering and settle for awhile. My ducks and geese are safe now from the many foxes and raccoons that wander our neighborhood at night.
I am grateful tonight for many things. I am feeling better than I was two years ago. I am exercising and my Parkinson’s is stable, for the most part. Tomorrow I can pick up my prescription medications from Kaiser and be back on track with that, too. Thanks to President Obama, we have a health care plan in place now that will eventually take away the Medicare “donut hole”, something I will fall into in about three months. Best of all, we have a president who is thoughtful. I might not always agree with everything that President Obama does, but I am constantly reassured that he does not make decisions lightly.
I know he is struggling with these questions much more than I am.