While settling in and making boxes disappear I realized I couldn’t find my passport. The small navy folder, important for identification and necessary for trips abroad, was one of the last things I packed but was nowhere to be found. Que sera sera. I took it as a sign that this peach should only travel to domestic destinations.
Last month while searching for a photo in a box I’d sifted through a half-dozen times, I was startled to find my passport, birth certificate and original Social Security card. But there was something more precious in the storage shed hiding among a lifetime of memories. I found a tiny piece of the Berlin Wall.
Before I retired my job included introducing a youth voting program to teachers in the small town of Statesville, N.C. I received a note of gratitude from a stranger named Karen. She thanked me for sending her a South African ballot from their first free election. In the envelope was a Zip Loc bag containing a small chunk of concrete and this note: “Piece of the Berlin Wall taken down in May 1990 by my father-in-law, a member of the 101st Airborne. I love looking at my chunks to remind me how much I love living in a democracy, and that everyone should have that opportunity.”
Tearing down the wall was fueled by a thirst for freedom. Everyone who observed last year’s Arab Spring knows what that thirst looks like. I thought about Karen’s message while standing outside the Trinka Davis Veterans Center on a sun-drenched day waiting for dignitaries to cut the ceremonial ribbon and officially open the facility. Our veterans protect freedoms with their love of country and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.
At the height of the Vietnam War I was a newlywed. My husband was a second lieutenant in the army by way of the ROTC. Calvin planned to attend law school after his service. Officer training at Ft. Benning was followed by Tactical Field Intelligence training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where the army gave all graduates orders for Vietnam. Suddenly there were too many field grade officers and he missed those orders by one day! To say we were relieved is an understatement.
That he narrowly missed a dangerous assignment made me appreciate the struggles our veterans face. The justification for Vietnam remained unclear and that fueled dissension at home. Because the country was bitterly divided, the treatment returning veterans received was a disgrace. They fought for their country and should have been properly heralded.
Calvin observed that soldiers who go to war are forever changed and asked, “Do we value the service of veterans? They come back with deficits like physical and mental wounds and no employment.”
I think our country owes them. What do elected officials in Washington think veterans deserve? In mid-September Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have established a $1 billion jobs program putting veterans back to work tending to the country’s federal lands and bolstering local police and fire departments. They said the spending authorized in the bill violated limits that Congress agreed to last year.
Supporters loosely modeled their proposal after president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps used during the Great Depression to put people to work planting trees, building parks, and constructing dams. An Oklahoma senator said the federal government already has six job-training programs for veterans and there’s no way to know how well they’re working.
I say if the programs provide veterans with training and jobs doing necessary work then the programs are working.
If veterans need employment assistance, they earned it. If they’re injured or broken with invisible wounds the best medical treatment should be available. Sadly, some soldiers don’t return home.
… and some gave all.
Murphy is a member of the Carrollton Creative Writers Club and the Carrollton Civic Woman’s Club. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.