Veterans Day immerses me in memory; of songs sung by my grandfather from his rocking chair; of fastidiously scripted plans for "policing the area" before imaginary camping trips hinted at by my father; of my cousin's affection for growing up on military bases; of a brother-in-law's sudden re-deployment to the Gulf War, decades after covert assignments out of Vietnam, which kicked open the door to sleepless nights for my sister and all of us who love them both.
Because of my father's service in World War II, I grew up watching Victory at Sea, reading Michener's Tales of the South Pacific, knowing that Isa Lei was a Fijian song that took him, for moments, to a part of the war that he wanted to remember, even revisit. A late remarriage and honeymoon presented an opportunity to see Fiji again. He had waited so long.
Grandpa came home with the French Croix de guerre and his battlefield nurse bride-to-be, Dad with his Navy pea coat and a fondness for military order, brother Jay with stories he could never tell, and all with hard-won benefits that helped house and educate them, that continue to provide.
If you haven't seen the French movie, A Very Long Engagement, I recommend it: against the horrors of war, very much in support of the heart's wisdom.
Overwhelm seems to be my authentic response to stories of our current returning veterans, how short we have fallen in terms of support to express our gratitude. On a recent vacation in San Diego, friends Lisa and Jim took the time to search out the grave sites for my veteran grandparents at the stunning Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on Point Loma, as beautiful a piece of real estate as California has to offer. They deserve no less. More than that, I am grateful for the care they received from V.A. hospitals while they were alive.