On November 11, 1918, my grandfather
on my father’s side was on a stateside dock
with his Army unit about to ship out
to fight in France,
when word was received
that the war had just ended.
Armistice Day, they called it.
Sometimes you’re lucky in war;
On November 11, 1944, my mother’s
brother was killed in a Navy dive bomber
that crashed into the sea in a battle
near the Philippines.
There was no armistice
that Armistice Day.
Surviving war is no guarantee it’s over.
Never know when something from the war
may catch you unawares. A flare up,
a flashback, a smell from a bad day long ago.
With two bitterly contested wars churning out
more wounded, more dead, more veterans,
there’s still no armistice
on Armistice Day.
Veterans Day, they call it now—
as though all those war emotions
can be contained in a holiday.
In Vietnam, I was a Boy Scout
turned into Army radio specialist.
A communications breakdown
in a war zone can be fatal.
Communications failure among veterans
and our support network
of family and friends
can also have scary consequences.
That’s what we need to talk about today,
after the parades, the bagpipes,
the drums and trumpets, the bugle calls,
the solemn speeches, the moment
of silence, the hearty drinks at the bar—
when memories of war
still intrude into our dreams, our lives.