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Friday, November 1, 2013

The Veteran of Washington Square ~ An Open Letter to Veterans Everywhere

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m dedicating this blog post to veterans, especially Veterans of the Vietnam War.
The Vietnam War raged throughout my childhood and into my young adult years. Colorful memories of hayrides and sleepovers, schoolwork and marathon phone conversations are interspersed with blurry black and white snapshots of maps and battles ~ those broadcast on TV and those explored in Friday afternoon current event articles. I hated the war, though not for any deep, idealogical reason. What I hated were the ugly pictures, the angry words, the pep rallies turned into peace rallies that were spoiling my fun. To quote Scarlett O'Hara, War, War, War! It seemed that was all anyone talked about.
Many years later, I was reminded of my youthful attitude towards the war. I was in New York, walking towards Washington Square, wearing my favorite blue cotton dress, the one with the soft wide belt that cinched my then very-tiny waist. Even now, decades later, I can still feel the breath of spring, the bounce of youth. My heels click-click on the cobblestone street. I’m young, free and happy. The world is waiting for me...
...and then I see him. A burly, wheel-chaired veteran sitting under the arch at Washington Square. My clicking heels accentuate the leg stumps he doesn’t try to hide.  All those current event articles, the ugly pictures in magazines and on TV ~ but for the first time, I understood how very little I knew about the Vietnam War, how very little my life had been impacted.
  Writers are rescuers. We save events, moments, people and feelings from being swallowed by time and forgotten. I’ve long outgrown my blue-cotton dress and clicking heels but I never forgot my Washington Square Veteran or the lesson he taught me.  In homes and classrooms, on street corners and in capital buildings, we debate the pros and cons of conflict. But in every war, there are those who give so much more than their opinions.
     His appearance in my novel, All the Broken Pieces, was my way of honoring and thanking the Veteran of  Washington Square for sacrificing his youth and his innocence.
We lost a big piece
of ourselves in Vietnam,
and none of us will
ever be the same,
but we did some good too.
We made a difference.
  I wish my Washington Square Veteran could see this post or read my book. I hope that he has found some measure of peace. Whatever one’s opinion about Vietnam, or any war for that matter, all veterans deserve our respect and gratitude. From the deepest recesses of my heart, I wish them peace.