Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.
Welcome to ADHD.
[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks! And know these accounts are true … without exaggeration!]
Chief, whispers Screen Two, I’ve been talking with the other guys and we think you have your dates mixed up.
“I know it’s Memorial Day and not Veterans Day, if that’s what you mean,” I reply.
Well, then, asks Four, shouldn’t you be writing lines like “Gone, but not forgotten” instead of what you’re planning to write?
“How do you know what I’m going to write?”
Do we really have to answer that? laughs Three. We are your cerebral screens, after all.
“Listen. It is, indeed, very important to look back … to remember those heroes and heroines who went before us, paved the way for our freedoms, preserved our nation. Trust me when I tell you I am all for that.”
But? ask all six screens.
“I also know it’s important to honor the surviving family members. To reassure them their loss of a loved one is not in vain, that such selfless acts remain one of the purest sacrifices known.”
But? ask all six screens.
“But this go-round, I’d like first to thank those we’ve lost in conflict – though it’s a military remembrance, I’m adding firefighters, doctors, nurses, those on the police force – and then honor the living champions among us.”
Black, nudges Screen Six, that’s exactly why we have Veterans Day.
“Give me a chance,” I reply, “and I’ll change things up if you disagree with what I do.”
Fire away, encourages One.
I have just finished a “vet pinning” ceremony, my absolute favorite “task” as a volunteer for the local hospice agency. This event involves the gathering of family and friends to witness our agency’s honoring of a man or woman who served the country through military time. In advance, I gather details about the honoree’s branch of service and any particularly interesting events that occurred, then speak of those as admirers look on.
Keep going, encourages Three. I like the showmanship aspect of all this.
When I finish the recounting of adventures, I award the vet a small pin to wear, a certificate to display and – best of all – a handmade quilt fashioned by the hospice ladies auxiliary. The stunning handiwork often brings on the tears the stories already inspired.
Assigned a veteran, I’m eager to bestow special honors upon him. My knock on his door long unanswered, I tap a second time just as a gentle giant swings wide the portal and softly bids me enter.
Introducing myself, I scan the elegant apartment in search of the many supporters who usually fill the room. But I see only the WW II honoree. “Sir,” I question the perfect-postured man, his serene face and Paul Newman eyes attentive, “shall I wait for the others to arrive?”
“No one else coming, son.”
I feel more than hear Screen Two weep.
Without the presence and interruptions of cheering onlookers, the ceremony passes far too swiftly.
Special man, nudges Five. Modest in pride, mighty in spirit. Engage him. Draw him out. Don’t just award and go.
“Tell me of your time with the atom bomb, sir.”
“Know ’bout that, do you?” he asks with a surprised laugh. For the next 25 minutes, he quietly speaks about his firsthand witness of not just one but two atomic bombs exploding.
“Dad wouldn’t let me join the Marines, so I signed on with the Navy as a water tender, third-class. Admiral told us we had to stand on the deck of our carrier one day to watch the first bomb explode just above a beautiful ship we’d taken from the Nazis. Didn’t really do much damage, but command told all the men to pop into a hot shower, just in case.”
Whaaat? gasps Five. Hot shower? Forget the blast. Airborne radioactivity alone would –
“Then the second bomb actually hit.” Eyelids shutter those Newman blues at the memory. “Incredible power. Sank just about everything out there. Not us, of course. But again we were advised a shower might be good.”
Too soon, the humble-but-fascinating vet politely smiles in dismissal, “I’ve talked enough, son.”
Thanking him heartily for his service and stories, I promise to help him with whatever he may need.
“Really?” Intense blues hold my own eyes. “Do me one favor, then, will you? Tell Mr. Obama and Congress to stop taking care of themselves. Two years of service earns a lifetime pension? Tell them to start taking care of those broken boys – well, the women now, too – coming home from war these days. They need help far more than an old man of 88 does.”
Done, sir! salutes Six, while five screens and a volunteer hold the vet’s strong hands one last time. Then I step outside, into the precious air of freedom, freedom secured at such a heavy price.
* * * * *
American sacrifices self to save French village