The tenth buddy

It was bagpipes and Scotland at our Presbyterian Church today. My Dad would have loved it. Our graying choir did OK and we had the job of making and serving cookies and treats after church in the basement after the service. I poured coffee, regular and decaf. But one ongoing drama had my attention though the morning.

The Mother of one of the kids who followed mine up the Sunday School chain reported that her son’s tenth buddy from our most recent conflicts had killed himself. She looked ahead and I could see from the choir loft that she was suffering intense pain. I’m sure she was wondering if her son could be next. She was surely reflecting his pain. She has faithfully reported this body count at our services for the past couple years since his return to civilian life.

These young troops are patted on the back when they return from conflict unlike the troops from Vietnam. The dirty secret is that most of us don’t want to follow them into service. We no longer harass them for defending the foreign missions our nation’s leaders deems necessary. But these young people go back again and again and again, as soldiers ever will, so as not to let down their buddies still in the field. And when they come back after years they are not the same; can not be the same, again.

My Grandfather fought for a year in France in World War I. He was shot to hell and like these young people today was hailed as a hero upon his return. But his year of fighting was only about four of five months at or near the front. He did not eat up his twenties going back and going back again. The nations of Europe did not have that Luxury. Their soldiers fought at the front for four years until they were lucky enough the have a leg blown off so that they could return to normal life. Look how well that served Europe’s future.

Its hard for me to put any credence in the faux patriotism from those in power who wave the bloody flag and send soldiers into the night or into a place like Niger with inadequate support and who then do little to insure that our soldiers don’t commit suicide upon their return or clumsily offer condolences to families who’s sons and daughters did what they made damn sure they never had to do themselves when they were young.

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