H. Anne Thurston, Columnist
In the 21st century nothing seems to be slowing down. Wars that the US are engaged in that were under way in the 20th continue today uninterrupted. Despite the public outcry against war during the United States involvement in Vietnam our husbands, sons, grandsons, brothers, nephews, brother-in-laws, sons-in law, grandsons-in-law, friends, neighbors, daughters, granddaughters, mothers, aunts and on and on still wear the military insignia of the US today. Although not all are in the line of fire they are, every one, engaged in a type of life we call the military.[private]
Recently many of our healthy, educated and energetic young people have either lost their jobs or simply have not been able to locate one due to the downturn in our national economy. In desperation to have an income, some have turned to the military to obtain a steady paycheck, although it is not their career of choice.
Those who find death become yet another statistic in this century’s ever mounting number of fatalities. Those who are wounded and survive because of today’s medical advances return to civilian live often severely handicapped physically and /or emotionally. A friend of mine was a chaplain in the Korean War, won a purple heart and is now a volunteer chaplain at a large VA hospital in Virginia. He has shared with me the heartbreaking stories of men who are vets of World War 11, now nearing 90 years of age. They have never left the hospital because of their injuries. Not only a retired Methodist minister, Leighton is also a Doctor of Psychology and his work with such patients helps them find meaning in such a secluded and restricted life.
As a military wife in both WW11 and the Korean War I have seen and participated in the alternate life style the military are expected to live. Like many civilian life styles the wives become single parents as their husbands live apart from them and their children. Nor do the families experience having a ‘home’ as they are expected to relocate when and wherever the military parent is reassigned.
Military bases offer officers and their families a life style surpassing that of the lower ranking classifications but even so these are far from what the average American calls home. Because of safety in the time of danger of all concerned the military demands preferential treatment of its officers that does not exist in civilian employment. Even in such civilian work as the police and fire departments there is no denial of any member to play on the same baseball team if he should so desire. In the military an officer may not be a member of an enlisted man’s team.
We are all aware of what a huge slice of our tax money goes toward maintaining our military. Yet with few exceptions we all pray for the day peace will reign in our world. Books have been written, meetings held and groups formed to further peace. International conclaves and treaties have been produced yet the number of casualties continues to climb. It is general knowledge if the money now spent worldwide on warfare was spent instead on food and medicines; that the military were trained as nutritionists, medics, educators etc that miracles could be accomplished and the reason for conflict greatly reduced.
Even as learned men and women of many cultures and ethnic groups work together there are others desperately endeavoring to manufacture yet a more deadly weapon. Pre-school siblings still fight each other over the possession of a toy. Play ground bullies take the fun out of recess and harass the shy, small, thin, handi-capped or otherwise different classmate. Co-workers manipulate the workplace to get ahead and marriage partners abuse one another, family members become jealous of each other’s successes, reputation, advancement, possessions or abilities. Yet most are blind to their own faults while dreaming of a peaceful world.
During this time of each year we become aware once again of the Peace of Christmas and include it in our greetings and within our cards. We truly mean the words when we say or write them. I’ve seen it in the lines at check-out counters where a person steps aside to permit another to move ahead of them in line because of having just one item or because of a handicap or age. I have had doors held open for me and smiles extended. I have noted it as a driver stops to allow another car to pull into the driving lane ahead of them.
Many religions preach peace. Yet historically religious groups have been instigators of the majority of the world’s wars. Agnostics point this out when explaining why they do not believe in a God. They comment, “If there is a god why does he allow the killing and suffering one sees in our world?”
Yet there are those of us who believe the gift of Love which God gave to each of us will prevail in the world when those who live on its surface cease insisting our ways are the only right ones. There are those who oppose conflict but embrace a ‘just’ war. The potential failure of such a premise is what human being can make this judgment? The Christian beliefs teach that God gave us each the power of choice. It is our judgment which often causes the killing and suffering the agnostic can’t understand.
They ask, ‘Why, if there is a god, does he/she not put a stop to it all.”
I have asked God more than once during my life the ‘why’ of a happening. There has never been an answer seep into my mind. I have come to accept the fact that neither the English language nor any other hides the answer within it. There simply is no man-made answer to our question, “why’. What I have found is that His promise to be with me in His love has allowed me to continue living life in such a manner that the ‘whys’ of it do not matter. I have come to understand what both our son and our daughter did during their short lives was of value to those who knew them, their family included. And that in leaving our world they really remained with those they were with while here. I believe today that human kind’s word ‘love’ is truly the answer to all our ‘whys’. The amazing thing is that when one gives love to another it remains with you even as the other grasps it.
There is the magic of love in a smile or the twinkle of an eye. It flows through the air wrapped in music and song. A hug, an outreached hand, a wave or a shared cookie all are the ‘whys’ which love extends to us in the guise of wonderful moments in our life.
Having peace replace wars in our world has more to do with each of us and how we react to those around us than the world’s effort to sign treaties and create world courts. The well known saying of ‘walking in another’s shoes’ has been around as long as my memory reaches. ‘To Love thy neighbors as yourself’ is another very familiar phrase. One person can make a huge difference in attaining peace among human kind. Right here in our area and again as near as Mancelona, Jimmy Carter’s ‘Habitat for Humanity’ is embraced by many both you and I know. The Salvation Army is another example of a well known charity that is many years older than Carter’s. Even such old organizations as the Girl and Boy Scouts teach love for others. The special thing about these two groups is that they are reaching out to hundreds of thousands of youth with this message.
In my recent move I came across my green scout book – my mind immediately flooded with memories. Phil, a writer from near Indian River, attended this past summer’s National Boy Scout Jamboree with his teen age son has written a memoir of those two magical weeks. He has written a number of scout based stories, including one full of scary camp-fire tales and another of camp recipes.
Every time I wander about our veterans memorial down in the park to seek out Ed’s name and read those of others I have known or not I remind myself that unlike some military forces the American soldier bears weapons not to kill others in hate. Rather, they do so to ascertain the American dream of having a home for every family and its members, work to meet the needs of that family and the opportunity to experience peace be protected as well as extended to all others world-wide.
The possibility that our government entered the war with Afghanistan because of the greed of private US interests involved in the world’s supply of oil and not to protect the citizens of our country has affected our citizenry in way that was not to be found during WW1 or 11.
Sometimes as individuals as well as governments we make mistakes. The value in doing so is only found if we learn from them and see that the mistake is never repeated. We are so fortunate that we have this season of love with us once again. Whether Christian or not the season’s message of love and Peace brings a wisdom to each of us that can indeed change our lives, the lives of those about us that we know and don’t. By reaching within ourselves we can find love – an inexhaustible supply which we can share with others. The more we give the more we receive. This is the season of Peace – join me in extending this precious gift to all those you love, know and don’t. Mine is here for you. May the Peace of Christmas fill your life.[/private]
Anne Thurston is a weekly columnist for The Boyne City Gazette. Thurston lives in Boyne City, and her published works include “E-Males” and “The Book of Anne.” More information on her work can be found at http://www.hathurston.com