I want to say to her: Come back.
Because maybe she is doing all of those laughing, crying things on the inside, just like her beloved plants, and she only needs someone to push her out, out, out again so she can laugh and sing and wonder on the outside, with me.
from: The Science of Breakable Things
written by Tae Keller
Random House, 2018
Air travel was not part of what my family did until my uncle and his family moved to California in the late 1960s. My grandparents flew to visit several times. It was an event, airplane travel. I remember taking them to the Cleveland Airport. We all dressed up in school clothes and were on our best behavior.
My grandparents flew on propellor planes in those days and boarded on an exterior stairway, like the one in Casablanca. It wasn’t until years later that a jet took them to California in just three hours.
Sometimes, Dad and Mom would take us for a drive on a sunny Sunday. Many times, we’d end up at the airport where we’d watch planes take off and land.
I didn’t fly anywhere until the late 1970s when I flew to Miami Beach. I understand why people love to fly. The beauty, the perspective, the reality of blue sky above even the grayest, cloudiest day. I also understand why people dread the experience.
Orville and Wilber Wright are credited with inventing the first successful airplane in 1903. And like all technology, its destructive capabilities were soon exploited. A German plane from 1915 included an “interrupter gear.” It allowed a machine gun to fire through the propeller without hitting the rotating blades.
As World War 1 progressed, air combat and ground combat merged into a new strategy called Bombardment. Battle lines were altered to allow aircraft to bomb supplies and communications. War theories and tactics continued to evolve and were thoroughly tested during the late 30s and into the 40s in the different theaters of the Second World War.
My dad was a radio operator in the Air Corps which was part of the Army during that War. That’s all I ever knew about what he did. He spent some time in Austria. I only know that because he brought back some Austrian pipes for my grandfather. They are beautiful works of art.
From what I can gather, his place was in the rear of the plane, inside a large glass enclosed dome where he watched the maneuvers and logged all communications. He recorded downed planes, parachute jumps, and and probably tended wounded soldiers on their way to a medical facility. https://www.armyaircorpsmuseum.org/Radio_Operator.cfm
Daddy never talked about the war.
Shortly after the official end of the war, September 2, 1945, the day the Japanese delegation formally signed the instrument of surrender, soldiers and sailors became veterans. The expectation was they would re-enter civilian life, pick up their jobs, their marriages, families, and carry on. Most did. Many could not. They were damaged, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Shell-shock, it was called, and it came with a stigma, a big one.
Our country’s history can be listed as a timeline of wars fought, from the Revolutionary War to whatever we are calling this longest war of all in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq … the War on Terror, maybe?
Everyone who serves in any branch of the military is a hero in my book. I can’t wrap my head around the experience of being in a war and all that means. Life or death, for one thing. Long deployments, for another. Modern medicine has been invaluable in saving lives on and off the battlefield, but that means more people are returning with more serious trauma. Lost and damaged limbs are only the visible signs.
PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a recognized illness. Help is available, civilian and through the Veterans Association.
But the stigma remains. And regardless, it’s hard to ask for help.
Some veterans are homeless. Some are hungry. Depression and suicide claim many others. The suicide rate among veterans is twice that of the general public, https://publicintegrity.org/national-security/suicide-rate-for-veterans-far-exceeds-that-of-civilian-population/ and continues to rise.
The majority of veterans do NOT suffer from PTSD, but it is common and becoming more common.
Life for all of us means adapting to change, helping others, and learning to accept all our own “turnings.”
Adapted in the 1950s from a passage in Ecclesiastes, Pete Seeger added two lines at the end. The song was recorded many times, but hit the charts again whenThe Byrds released the most famous version on December 6, 1965, the day before the 21st anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, when the United States entered World War II.
To everything (Turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (Turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose under Heaven.
. . .
A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late.
I hope and pray the last line is still true.
To contact the Veteran Crisis Line, callers can dial 1-800-273-8255 and select option 1 for a VA staffer. Veterans, troops or their families members can also text 838255 or visit VeteransCrisisLine.net for assistance.
--stay curious! (and grateful)