I am not a military veteran. I am a veteran of the wars on racism and homophobia and sexism and ageism, but those are different. Not as much as most people think, though, since the point of American military service is to make freedom available to all citizens, equally.
My father was blind when WWII broke out, but five of my uncles served in the military—army, navy, and marines, in the South Pacific and in Europe.
I heard them say that Ernie Pyle, the war correspondent, told the truth about the war. Since I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, I decided I would be the next Ernie Pyle, and tell the truth. I even went to the Ernie Pyle School of Journalism at IU, where he went to college.
All IU frosh men were required to take ROTC in those days. Unlike almost all my classmates, I liked it. I was IU’s “Distinguished Freshman Military Student,” in my first year, which meant simply that I had the most points on all the tests put together. With my dorm friend, Jon Stroble, I even joined the Pershing Rifles, and was part of the honor guard for the queen of the military ball. I decided I would switch over from being a war correspondent to being a war participant.
That summer, though, a call to ministry intervened. The Cadre [ROTC instructors] were very disappointed when I told them I was not going to go beyond the required two years.
I have always had a great deal of respect for military veterans. When I learned of the extreme rates of homelessness and suicide among current veterans, I decided I had to do something. In addition to contributing money to organizations that help veterans directly, and writing letters to Congressmen asking for better support for veterans, I decided to write a book that would call attention to their needs. Since I am not a veteran and have no credentials in that field, I did what I do best, wrote a story, a novel. All my proceeds from it go to supporting veterans.
That’s really the only support that matters. Bumper stickers don’t matter. “Thank you for your service” is an insult if you don’t follow it up with action that requires Congress to take care of veterans for real instead of offering them “thoughts and prayers,” as the current Congress has done for several years.
Veterans Day is a hollow holiday if all we do is support veterans by going to a parade or waving a flag. It’s an insult to real VETS.
VETS, about four homeless and handicapped Iraqistan veterans, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Powell’s, etc. It’s published by Black Opal Books.