“Music? Where we going to music, daddy?”
He constantly worked to perfect how early to tell her that they would be doing something a little special. If he shared the news too early, there would eventually be tears when he confessed, “No, not yet. We’re not going for three more hours.” If not early at all, he felt like he was robbing her of anticipation’s joy.
One of the churches downtown was putting on a musical tribute to veterans. He liked hearing the songs, and not usually being one to indulge in veteran events, he felt that, of all days, Veterans Day was an appropriate day to reminisce.
Taking her already extended hand in his, they moved from their car towards the small bottleneck of people.
Reality hit and hit hard. The pair of them, his daughter and him, were among the youngest attendees–by decades. Guiding her to the general area he wanted to sit, he let her choose the exact pew. Taking their seats, he didn’t want to look around. In front, there was not a single younger person. The enormous sanctuary was far from full. The choir was smaller than expected. The brass section, even smaller. And he couldn’t help but notice the age of the participants. Maybe five out of the 50-ish musicians were under the age of 40.
He knew that the greatest generation was basically gone. As a veteran of the Iraq war, he knew that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans couldn’t compete with Vietnam veterans regarding duration and intensity. This knowledge carried a bit of shame. He really wanted his efforts to have been necessary and valuable. All signs pointed to the opposite.
Regardless, he also knew something more. He knew what every veteran knows–that he was lucky. And tied inexorably to this knowledge was the fact that some…were unlucky. Moreover, there was no escaping the inner turmoil captured by the persistent yet unanswerable question. “Why?”
Support veterans. They need it.