The first Veteran’s Day I spent in the military happened in 2005. I was at Goodfellow AFB in the super (ironically) independent, nationally militaristic, pro-war, anti-humanitarian, Christian state of Texas. Made me proud to be a military member. I was only four months into my service.
A year later, I was finishing up my drone training at Creech AFB, 40 minutes north of the Las Vegas city limits. I was dealing with a failing relationship, professional drama, and enough personal qualms to not really appreciate the appreciation for my service. Some of my former peers had gone out in uniform to get their pats on the head like good boys and girls, eager to sit down in a fancy restaurant for a free meal. I stayed home and read a book.
Three weeks later, I watched as an American Convoy hit an IED. As far as I knew, all the people inside the vehicle had been killed. Those Veterans were not coming home in anything but coffins with an American Flag draped over to honor their sacrifice for their country.
But for what did they die?
Every year, on Veteran’s Day, I think about those soldiers. I think about their families. Their possible futures. Their alternate realities if we had not created this mess of a war.
I not only think of American Veterans, I spend time reflecting on the losses that our allies have suffered. Our enemies.
I mourn at the destruction we have created for profit at the expense of my generation and the next. Yet as a country we excuse war so long as none of our brave soldiers come home in a casket. Our politicians tout drone warfare as “not putting American lives in danger.” That “we are killing the enemy before they can kill us.” Rationale of that sort states with no other meaning: violence is okay, peace is not an option when we are safe, and American lives are worth more than any others.
We refuse to think of the inverse as possible because of our exceptionality. When confronted with a Red Dawn imaginary scenario we respond in a violent manner for the defense of our people and land not realizing the irony of our reality as that invading force.
Our consumerist mentality has turned a solemn, sacred day of humbling ourselves in the horrific reality that we send our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives to war, killing in our name. The more comfortable we are with our lives, the less we value those that suffer.
It is time we change this. Over the next year we will be facing some very real pains. Those freedoms that our soldiers have spilt unknowable amounts of blood to protect are slowly being taken away. It is time that we take responsibility for our actions, as a people, a country, humanity as a whole. It is time we truly love our enemies outside of the plague that has become our Sunday school Christian mentality.
This time we do it for real.
I’m not saying that it will be easy. Nothing is easy. Being spiteful, hateful, cynical is easy because it allows you to respond in kind to all the negativity that pervades our world. And if you don’t trust in our world, trust in me. Trust that there are human beings fighting to keep back the darkness. Trust that first step and join us in creating a better world.
All our hands are red in blood and misery. I believe it is time we wash them clean.
Written by Brandon Bryant