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In Flanders Fields

I bought StreetWise today from Roarke E Moody, the vendor I know best.  Moody is a Vietnam vet, and a poet, and for the Memorial Day issue of the paper he wrote,

Naked-eyed toy soldiers take few shortcuts through hell.  We all had our own piece of hell.  In this mess of a war, in this distant land, it does not matter what you are fighting for…a patch of dirt, a piece of tail, war whores trapped in hell.

We were all there through the monsoons, through the doom and gloom–one and all, and all in one–we were there.

Pressing on, past the limit of human behavior.  We took no short cuts through hell.  War, what is it good for?!

On any night in America, there are 150,000 homeless veterans, mostly from the Vietnam war.  People I know who work with the homeless guess we are about to start seeing the first big wave of Iraqi veterans land in our streets.  They say there’s a five-year spiral from the end of deployment to when a vet suffering from PTSD exhausts family and personal resources and ends up homeless.

I am not a blanket pacifist, but there are few occasions in five millennia of recorded history that seem to merit the slaughter of our youth, the concomitant rape of women, the destruction of homes and families.

I buy a poppy every May.  One of my brothers is a Vietnam vet, a Marine, my husband served in the Second World War, my uncles in Korea and in the Second World War, my great uncles in World War I, my great-grandfather in the Civil War, and on back to King Philip’s War.  Until this current useless tragedy in the Middle East, my family, out of duty, out of adventure, out of necessity, has served in every war our country has fought.

My upcoming novel, Body Work, deals in part with an Iraqi vet suffering from PTSD.  I can’t bear the thought that we sent all these young people to war, for no reason other than the egos of the Halliburton-Cheney-Rumsfeld Neocon crowd, and that we bring them home terribly damaged in body and mind and pay no heed to them.  I can’t fix it, I can’t end it, I can only bear witness to it.

I sometimes march with the Sisters from the Eighth Day Center for Justice, who hold a peace vigil every Tuesday morning at the Federal Building on Jackson and Dearborn in Chicago.  We prayed that Barack’s election would bring a swift end to our fighting in Iraq and Vietnam, and it is another heartbreak that it hasn’t.

Meanwhile, in Flanders Fields the poppies continue to grow.

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