Today is Veteran’s Day.
President Woodrow Wilson originally called it Armistice Day, celebrating the end of the first world war. He thought the day should be “filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” It was the cessation of hostilities, and by the sound of those words, after an entire world at war, hopeful it would be the cessation of wars forever.
But war it seems is constant, and after another hellish world war was fought, the name of the holiday was changed. There have been a few other changes since then, changes in date, and focus. But finally, in 1978, President Gerald R. Ford returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11.
For anyone who serves, or has served in our military, I support you, I really do. And I honor your bravery and willingness to serve our country and protect our freedom.
But my first real awareness of war came about during the Vietnam era. To me, war was nothing but a waste of lives and resources, and something to be protested.
My classmates and I, mercifully a couple years short of being eligible for the draft, didn’t know anyone personally who served or died in Vietnam, but that didn’t stop us from wearing our POW bracelets, and hanging up posters of doves, and daisies.
The other thing I hung up was a tragic poem, that to this day, embodies for me the Vietnam experience specifically, and war in general. I can relate quite closely to the youthful voice, the images of innocent late adolescent relationship building, and the haunting thread of taking for granted that tomorrow will always come.
Originally, this piece was attributed to the prolific Anonymous. Today however, I found out it was written by Merrill Glass. I’d like to tell you a little bit about Merrill, like who she was, who she was writing about, or if she’s written anything besides that poem. But, Google doesn’t seem to know anything about her either, other than she penned this heartfelt outpouring of regret.
For those of you of a certain age, you’ll remember this, you may have even known which poem I was talking about right away.
Remember the day I borrowed your brand new car and dented it?
I thought you’d kill me, but you didn’t.
And remember the time I dragged you to the beach,
and you said it would rain, and it did?
I thought you’d say, “I told you so.” But you didn’t.
Do you remember the time I flirted with all
the guys to make you jealous, and you were?
I thought you’d leave, but you didn’t.
Do you remember the time I spilled strawberry pie
all over your car rug?
I thought you’d hit me, but you didn’t.
And remember the time I forgot to tell you the dance
was formal and you showed up in jeans?
I thought you’d drop me, but you didn’t.
Yes, there were lots of things you didn’t do.
But you put up with me, and loved me, and protected me.
There were lots of things I wanted to make up to you
when you returned from Vietnam.
But you didn’t.