The letter to "Granddaddy" Melker was from the pastor of his church in the anthracite coal mining town of Eastern Pennsylvania that he came from. In page after page of small talk, the pastor apologizes for failing to write for so long and then builds up to the point of the letter. "A terrible disease has struck the area . . . people call it the "flu" . . . many in our own community have fallen to it . . . including someone very dear to you, someone in your own family . . . I'm talking about your sister, Margaret." (See November 11, 1918: Another Veteran for Peace )
I am struck to the core every time I read those words. I don't want to imagine what it is like to be in the midst of the carnage of war and then be blindsided by the kind of pain enclosed in that letter, to boot. For me, Martin's experience reading that letter in France stands for the experience of every veteran.
Often it takes something very local, very specific, for any one of us to grasp the pain brought about by our society-wide, even global, injustices. For me, the words in that letter epitomize all the pain that we, as a society, allow our young men -- and now, women -- to suffer when we induce them to go be our soldiers.
Can we translate the personal into the communal? Can our wish that things could be different for one person find expression in social action?
How long-term? "Studies show that the peak years for government health care and disability compensation costs for veterans from past wars came 30 to 40 years after those wars ended. For Vietnam, that peak has not been reached." (See "Cost of Treating Veterans Will Rise Long Past Wars")
Here's a modest proposal: instead of talking about the economic stimulus created by military spending in our congressional districts, and all the "good jobs" that high-tech military production creates, let's start a responsible accounting of the money that we promise to spend caring for and healing the veterans we've already caused to be injured. Let's draw a line in the sand and be honest about the debt we are already obligated to repay. And then do the hard work to assure that the money is there to pay those costs.
We are a country that has a hard time imagining the anguish and suffering that we cause as a result of our addiction to the use of force and war. Maybe the best place to start is to get real about the financial consequences.
Granddaddy Melker probably would have been proud to have mined any kind of coal. But he was especially proud to have been an anthracite coal miner.
(See "I was an anthracite miner . . . . ")
"A terrible disease has struck the area . . . people call it the "flu" . . . many in our own community have fallen to it . . . including someone very dear to you, someone in your own family . . . I'm talking about your sister, Margaret." (See November 11, 1918: Another Veteran for Peace )
(See Back to School (All Quiet On the Western Front))
(See DU: Will we ever be able to say "We're done here" ? )
(See THIS Memorial Day, Honor the Fallen: STOP Drone Killing! )