Saturday, November 11, 2006

Salutes. Losses. Changes. Hope.

BOULDER CREEK, CA. 1970. My beloved friend, the late Stephen Crawford, finished his Army training and was scheduled to head out to Viet Nam. On his way to San Francisco he visited me in Boulder Creek--at the time a small, artist and hipster community in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Stephen arrived in uniform. We hugged and kissed, then made fast tracks to the local grocer for beer, burgers and chips. The tiny grocery store was full of locals. Most took one look at my friend in uniform, scowled and harrumphed. Fury grew inside of me. What was wrong with these people? Steve Crawford was the coolest guy I ever knew. He wasn’t a war monger—just victim of circumstance. But this attitude was a signal of a sad change to follow.

Sgt. Crawford survived the war. Civilian Crawford did not. Demons, nightmares, drunks, and motorcycles ended his life much too early.

Today at honor is given to classmates who served. Today I think about all the men and women who volunteer to serve. Today I have more faith that our future veterans will be served properly by our government and respected by society.

Last Tuesday we saw a switch from that earlier sad change that eventually trashed a progressive political party and handed power to a far right alternative. Today I pray that America keeps its head on, and that frustration disappears from people like "a submariner’s wife,” who recently wrote: “Did everyone hear that the White House just approved a 2.2% raise across the board for the military. For my husband’s check that will be about 15 cents an hour increase! Whoo hoo!!!! If we put it in a 401K we might get to go to a movie around the time we qualify for the Senior Discount! Thanks Mr. Bush! You really put a lot into the moral of the troops!!”

Patriotism runs deep in my blood. Perhaps, now, compassion will become patriotism's first cousin.

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