I admit, I led a pretty sheltered life as a kid. My father was in the Navy, but we didn’t move much, and when we did, they chose neighborhoods with good schools, even if that meant my father had to commute further when he wasn’t at a more remote location. Certainly my History teachers drilled me in the reasons for and results of warfare. I understood about the draft, being of the Viet Nam era, and about sacrifices and losses in war, in fact I wrote a term paper on the letters home from my father’s younger brother, who died in Korea. My last year in high school we were based in Japan, where I was up close and personal with the injuries and losses. Still as more of an observer than a participant.
When we returned to the States, we went through Hawaii and of course we hit the “attractions,” which included the Arizona Memorial, and the “Punchbowl” National Cemetery. Faced with row upon row upon row of graves, stretching from one end of the dead volcano to the other, I finally realized the true cost of war, and was forever changed. At the Arizona, I didn’t read the names or the history, I simply stood looking into the water, and felt the weight of all those who had died that morning.
After that, we visited all the places my parents had wanted to see, including Little Big Horn. This was long before the earthquake that revealed so many secrets. I didn’t see much more than a large empty field. But I felt again the echoes of so many dead, for such incomprehensible reasons.
We all know war is hell. Sometimes war may seem to be a necessity, and perhaps sometimes it is. But how, in an era of what we believe is increased understanding, we can continue to believe tearing apart the lives and souls of young people will provide a long term solution to any problem, escapes me. I’m told I’m too much of an idealist. I only know I looked out across those acres of ground level markers, and wept for lives cut short, hopes never realized, futures never lived. And wondered how civilized we had truly become.