November 7, 2009 10:25:00 PM
When I moved to Columbus from Washington, D.C., I was in Miss Emily Potts''s fifth-grade class at Franklin Academy. In Washington people had teased me about my "southern drawl." In Mississippi they called me a "d---- yankee." My defense was to try to talk like whoever was talking to me. (I have even caught myself lisping back at someone who lisped!)
That year, when November arrived, Miss Potts had a lot to say about Nov. 11, which in those days was called "Armistice Day." It was also my grandmother''s birthday.
Well, I wasn''t about to admit that I didn''t have the foggiest idea what "armistice" meant. By circuitous reasoning I figured it must have something to do with the South. "Gone with the Wind" had just come out. I didn''t know much about it, either. With financial restraints I had had to choose between seeing the movie and going to the county fair. I opted for the fair. I did know, however, that it was about the Old South, probably also about that "Ole Massa" who was lying "in de cold, cold ground." To me "armistice" sounded like "our mistress," so I figured "our mistress" was "Ole Massa''s" wife. Like my grandmother. Ergo, everybody was celebrating my grandmother''s birthday! (If anyone needs an example of the egocentricity of childhood, I guess I am a good example.)
That was a happy thought, just as in those days cessation of World War I was a happy memory. WWII might be stalking us, but we didn''t know it. When it came, we thought it would be "the war to end all wars."
We were as naïve as I was about Armistice Day, which is now Veterans'' Day. We have since had WWII, the "Korean conflict," the Cold War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Iranian hostage situation and all the years since 9/11, fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and keeping a wary eye on Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and others. Ironic, isn''t it?
As Veterans'' Day approaches, we are well aware of the scores of veterans we need to honor. I asked a couple of family members of people in the service how they felt.
Julie McPherson Delk''s only son, Robert McPherson, is in the Air Force in England, another Western country that has been beset by terrorists. She says she is "proud of him" and thinks the military is an honorable career. Although he might be deployed to the Middle East, she says, "I just have to believe he is in God''s hands. It was his choice. I support him."
Peggy Cantelou''s stepson, Campbell Cantelou, has made the military his career as well. He has had several foreign stints, in Korea, Kuwait, Afghanistan and two tours of duty in Iraq. He was given a medal for his work in communications in Kuwait during Desert Storm. During his last time in Iraq, he worked again in communications from the Green Zone in Saddam''s palace, supposed to be well-fortified.
Peggy says, "First of all, you are proud that they are willing to make a commitment to military service to make our world safe, especially to keep other nations from encroaching on us, including terrorism. But underlying all that, there is fear always in the back of your mind. You just can''t allow yourself to dwell on it." Military service requires courage for the troops, but also the quiet, abiding kind from their families.
Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "I hate war. Eleanor hates war. My little dog Fala hates war." Surely anyone with a shred of intelligence hates war. Sometimes it is inevitable. Whether you believe our best recourse is to send 44,000 additional people to Afghanistan, (assuming we have enough in the service to send), or you think we should pull out as soon as possible, I believe all right-thinking people yearn for a world-wide armistice. Until that day of the Peaceable Kingdom, we do gratefully acknowledge the service of our military men and women this Veterans'' Day.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.