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Volume 16, Issue 46 - November 13 - November 19, 2008
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Not All Heroes Wear Uniforms

Give an Hour and you can join them

Home of the Free
Because of the Brave.
–Seen on a T-shirt in Glen Burnie

I ponder the above words as I write on Veterans Day, 2008. Their meaning is so obvious, yet they leave more than a bit unwritten.

On this day when we pay homage to all veterans, my thoughts stray to those dedicated to win a war, to guarantee continued freedom, who because of circumstances not of their choosing wore no uniform.

In civilian dress, they had no chance to announce I am ready to be brave so that we can remain free.

Walter Hard, Vermont’s top poet in my book, wrote the poem “On The Home Front” about an unnamed farm lad impatient to sign up for the Big War. But first the hired man enlisted, his father couldn’t carry on alone and his “exemption had to be.”

His uniform was a pair of worn dungarees and a faded shirt; his weapons were his strong back and browned arms. He was a war hero who would never wear a medal.

It got so he didn’t go to the village
For fear of meeting some of his friends
Home on leave.
Silent and alone he fought his battle …

Only his thoughts and the harvests from the farm reached the battlefields. The lone roar he heard was that of the tractor.

How do he and others like him, relegated to the home front out of necessity, fit into the scheme of November 11?

Not all heroes wear uniforms.

War Takes Its Toll

As we read or via television witness the big battles, we lose sight of the toughest fights of all: individual bravery; the hand-to-hand mopping up, holding land gained against all costs, man against man, doing virtually anything to stay alive and shorten the days when all this hell will end.

With many, when the hell of fighting the enemy is over, the hell deep within still rages. It can become a lonely yet fierce war that can overwhelm the mind, lead to drugs and alcohol, severe depression, isolation, broken families and relationships, sometimes suicide. Its destructive consequences can be multiplied many times over if, beyond the afflicted mind, the warrior suffers crippling physical war wounds.

On this Veterans Day, I wonder how much can we expect of the 1.6 million who have answered the call to fight in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf? More than a third of them deployed more than once. The camaraderie of troops remains astonishingly upbeat. But strong as it is, war camaraderie holds no candle to the bonds and security of everyday life, where one can go to bed at night and plan on waking up tomorrow, or walk down a street and arrive at one’s destination.

In the latest war, it matters not whether you or I think we should be; we are and our troops are — and the emotional and physical toll is almost beyond belief.

Determined and brave as a man or woman might be, under the continued stress the mind becomes vulnerable. Fragile. An artificial limb can in reasonable time lessen the impact of a lost leg, but there are no implants for a shattered mind. Time, caring, understanding, medication, counseling, patience can be only the beginning. Hope is elusive.

Give an Hour

Anne Arundel County has Maryland’s most returning veterans from this war, more than a few of whom face emotional or psychological problems. Not just them; also their wives, children, partners and families. Our whole society.

Last summer Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold made $50,000 available for a program to help these veterans. The programming was left to Frances Phillips, who headed Anne Arundel County Health and is headed shortly to even bigger public health projects on the state level. Give an Hour is part of that plan.

Retired and still-practicing psychiatrists, psychologists and others volunteer time with veterans and their families and partners afflicted by the dribble-down effect. Participation is growing. The direct role of civilians can have awesome impact.

Think of the satisfaction of the volunteer counselors and others, the appreciation of the veterans and others enduring this hell after war, the understanding and the appreciation for those who served and their families who in their own way served and still serve with them. If you’re anything like me, you’re mighty proud to be an American this Veterans Day.

Enough said.

Be the citizen on the home front. Join the war effort, make a donation: Or if you’re a vet or family member or know of one who could need assistance, call 410-222-0117.


© COPYRIGHT 2008 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.