Today is Veteran's Day and for those of you who don't know, my husband is a veteran. It sounds like a funny thing to call someone who is 31 (almost 32). Growing up, veterans were old men like my grandfather who wore military hats and talked about a war that happened a million years ago and didn't matter all that much anymore. Being a hippy pacifist myself, I never expected to be married to someone who was in the military or who had actually fought in war. And I never expected to have to explain to my daughter what it means to have a dad who is a war hero. Of course, she is too little to understand today, but one day, maybe on a day like today, I will ask her why she has the day off from school and if she knows what it means to be a veteran.
When you think about raising children, you think about how honest you want to be with them. You want them to trust you and to make them feel connected to you, but you also don't want to tell them every last detail about high school, either. You want them to hold on to their innocence for as long as possible, but to also educate them about the reality of life outside of their safe little bubbles. So, the discussion of war is a tricky one then. What does it means to be a veteran? It means that you have fought in a war. And what does that mean, to fight? There is the Hollywood version of war we're all use to, of course, but what does it really look like? It means things like- sleeping in the dirt, carrying an enormous pack for hours on end, writing letters to loved ones, sitting around doing nothing sometimes, being afraid, being tired, and it also means a lot of other ugly things that we don't like to think about.
So what do I want Ella to know about her daddy, the veteran? I want her to know that he did something harder than I could ever imagine. I want her to know that he is brave and strong (though she already knows this). I want her to know that the experience of war changed him, as it changes ever single person who experiences it, and that it isn't something to be taken lightly as I took my own grandfather's service for so many years. I want her to know that being a veteran will always be a part of who he is, but that it is only one part of the man who is her father. And I want her to know that I'm proud of him.