---Thanks to Joseph Walker

My son-in-law Brock doesnít talk a lot about his three tours of duty in Iraq.

This is partly because Brock isnít much of a talker.His words are in his soul, and they emerge powerfully in his poetry.But he isnít one to blather and brag.If you ask him a direct question he will give you a direct answer.But it will be straight, true and honest, with no frills or embellishments Ė unlike his father-in-law, who never let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

But there are other reasons Brock isnít inclined to talk much about his service in Iraq Ė reasons known only to him.While Iíve asked a lot of questions about his military experience, there are certain things I havenít asked Ė and Brock hasnít volunteered. They are deeply personal, hidden somewhere in the recesses of his consciousness.I donít know what they are, but I know they are there Ė and that they are laden with feeling and angst.

Every once in a while, however, these feelings come bubbling to the surface Ė or at least, very near to the surface.Like last week, for example.News of the tragedy at Fort Hood hit him like a ton of camo-covered bricks, and not just because there are people from his last unit who are stationed at Fort Hood.For a big part of his life, the Army has been his family and his home.So this was like a home invasion to him, and the victims were like family.It was personal.It was intimate.And it hurt.

In a way, I think I understood what he was feeling.But in another way, I donít know that I ever really can.I came of age at a time when military service was something that you avoided.We were fighting in an incredibly unpopular war.Returning veterans were not celebrated Ė indeed, many of them were criticized and castigated for their service.It was a painful time in our nationís history, and a time when Ė for many of us Ė military service was simply not an acceptable option.

So thereís a big part of an entire generation Ė the Greatest Generationís babies Ė who donít fully get it when it comes to Veteranís Day.We were too young to remember the service of our fathers during World War II and the Korean conflict, and we became eligible for military service at a time when people were burning their draft cards and heading off to Canada to avoid military duty.Not only was it uncool to enlist, it seemed like a bad idea to do so.

So we didnít.We went to college, we got jobs, we joined the Peace Corps, we did missionary work for our respective churches Ė but we never experienced the military.Which is probably why we get a little nervous when our children talk about enlisting.Or why we get a little embarrassed when old guys stand and salute the flag as it passes by at the head of the community parade.Or why we have no idea why the TV networks continue to make such a big deal out of the annual Army-Navy football game when neither team has been in the national title discussion since the days of leather helmets and the single wing formation.

And that whole ďsemper fiĒ thing?We think itís kinda cool Ė but we donít really get it.

Which is not to say that weíre not patriotic.We are.We love our country.But thereís a special kind of love that comes from serving, whether youíre serving people, God or Country.You who have served America in the armed forces know what Iím talking about.You may have complained about the food or the conditions or the drill sergeants, but that didnít change your feelings of love and devotion to our country.In fact, it almost enhanced them.Certainly those challenges that you encountered as part of a military unit helped to intensify your overall experience, and provided the glue that binds you to others who wear the uniform.

On Veteranís Day Ė and every day.

For reasons known only to you.

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ó © Joseph Walker

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