The Poppies Still Blow In Flanders Fields... A Veteran's Day Salute from Rocks Off and Lonesome Onry and Mean

sara afghanistan.jpg
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. - and the author's daughter - Sara Blount, on duty in Afghanistan
"In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields."

- Lt. Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

For a peaceful country, we sure do a lot of fighting.

As a child, my Veterans Days centered on World War II and the Korean conflict. My uncle Billy Manning was a foot soldier in WWII. He left tiny Gatesville, Texas, a hell-raising cowboy country bumpkin and came home an entirely different man. Billy looked and talked a lot like Audie Murphy, and I don't think I ever saw him without his tiny worn Bible in his shirt pocket.

He used to let me ride with him as he looked for cattle in the hills and valleys outside Gatesville in what is now Ft. Hood, and I'll never forget asking him why he always carried that little Bible.

He told me that he was lying in a wet, muddy foxhole in the Ardennes one night under a heavy bombardment by German artillery. The shells were exploding all around, people were dying on both sides of him. He was scared, real scared.

"I told the Lord that if He'd just get me out of that foxhole and back to Texas, I'd be his servant from then on. He got me out of there somehow."

For people my age, our entire lives and thought processes were forever altered by Viet Nam. Nothing was ever the same after that. The war was the straw that caused many of us to stop believing the Big Lie, stop believing that the government omnisciently knew what was right for us, that it could be trusted come hell or high water. I went to a high school that graduated 550 people in 1968.

Drive-By Truckers, "Mama Bake a Pie (Daddy Kill a Chicken)," written by Tom T. Hall

I go back and look at the names of my classmates who died in Viet Nam once in a while. It is always sobering. And it hurts me to the core of my soul to know that there are homeless Viet Nam vets begging on street corners and sleeping under bridges. They made it home, but many of them truly never made it back in their minds.

Now I've had a daughter who has been in the Air Force for the past 13 years. Her war was Afghanistan. I still remember how changed she was when she got back, how hard it was to settle her down, to get that high-strung, always alert look out of her eyes. But she weathered it well.

Three days from now, Friday the 13th, will be her last day on active duty. I wish it could be the last day for all these kids to whom, no matter what we think about the wars we are in, we owe an incalculable debt of gratitude. May Iraq and Afghanistan put us out of the business of war once and for all.


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