Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Only the dead have seen the end of war" - Plato

It would be tempting to go with the traditional "This is why I'm grateful" post this evening. But this Thanksgiving Day something else is on my mind.

I spent most of yesterday writing a story for the Florida Methodist News Service about the Military Support ministry sponsored by a church in Oviedo, near Orlando. It was a good story, full with interesting detail and featuring the usual cadre of dedicated Christians working their hearts out to serve others in the name of Jesus.

Something one of the women said touched me, so I repeated the line to Rebekah while we were in the kitchen together, working on dinner. Suddenly my eyes filled up with tears. I felt it coming, I tried my hardest to tell the story objectively - but I couldn't help it, I flat out cried.

It was just a simple vignette, but somehow the story I was sharing overwhelmed me. I was telling Rebekah about Liz Whitley, the support group's organizer and prime mover. She has visited a rehab facility that works with service men and women who have lost one or more of their limbs. She was profoundly moved by the what she saw there and told me about one of the young men she was privileged to visit:
  • “That’s where we met Matt from Kansas,” Whitley said. “He has lost one arm and both legs; his wife and children now live in an apartment nearby. He’s receiving phenomenal care. But it was his enthusiasm – he came flying around the corner in his chair, his walking legs under one arm…. What a spirit these young soldiers have! The only people we saw with heads down were the fathers, pushing their sons in wheelchairs.”
It was as I tried to share with Rebekah that one line - "The only people we saw with heads down were the fathers, pushing their sons in wheelchairs" - that I felt my eyes fill with tears. I could feel it, the pain of seeing your own child come home with missing limbs; saying the words out loud was simply more than I could do.

So I am thankful, most certainly, for the spirit of the young people who willingly put everything on the line to serve their country. But at the same time I'm angry, and so very sad, heart-broken that we are sending these young people miles away from home to prop up forms of government I'm not so sure the people of Afghanistan and Iraq really want themselves.

There's a quotation that I hadn't seen before, it was tacked on the end of an email I read from a soldier currently serving in the Middle East. It also touched me, and it made me sad.

"Only the dead have seen the end of war." - Plato

It's not right. It's not right at all. And I'm not sure any more that what we're doing is helping at all.


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