For the past several weeks, Jim and I have been watching HBO's series The Pacific, based on events in the Pacific Theater during WWII. I'm not really a fan of war movies (although Saving Private Ryan is one of my all-time favorites!), and I hadn't intended to watch this series. My plan was to read while Jim watched, but the story and the acting are both so good that I was pulled into it, almost against my will.
There's plenty of gore - after all, it was a war - but not gratuitous shots of viscera and body parts (although they both are shown as incidental to what's going on). Mostly there are young men who are uncertain, frightened, and - by turns - both brave and not-so-brave. I keep reminding myself that these characters are representing US Marines who are now in their 80s and 90s; the age my father would be if he were still alive. And, indeed, he did serve with the Navy Seabees in the Pacific Theater during WWII.
Lately, too, I've been thinking about my generation's war - Vietnam - and the young men who saw battle in other jungles and in other times. I remember how painfully young so many of those sailors, soldiers, airmen and marines were, although all of us certainly thought of ourselves as quite grown up at the time. I remember two years ago at the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in our nation's capital. As Jim and I began our walk along the path adjacent to The Wall, unexpected and uncontrolled tears began streaming down my face. I don't recall that I was sobbing, but my eyes seemed to just be leaking copious tears. Jim asked, "Did you know anyone here?" and I replied, "I knew all of them." They were my classmates, my friends, young men I had dated, the fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers of my friends. Someday, there will be an HBO series about Vietnam, I'm certain.
Someday, too, there will be series covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More young lives forever changed by the horror that is war. More minds damaged beyond repair - both physiologically and emotionally - coming home to a world that cannot comprehend how truly awful war is.
Following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, I made it my daily practice to read the brief biographies of each of those who died as they were printed in my local newspaper. It was an act of respect for those lives lost, those who, in a sense, were stand-ins for me and my loved ones - for all of us in this country. And so, although it's somewhat outside my comfort level and I have to take frequent breaks because of the intensity, I watch The Pacific. I feel that, in some small way, I am honoring those who served in time of war, who fought for our freedoms, who came home changed - or who never came home. By extension, I am also honoring those who serve today - young women and men who probably never thought they'd really be on foreign soil facing deadly attacks by people who hated their way of life. The older I get, the younger they seem, until even those who are approaching great old age seem like children to me. Lives interrupted in the midst of becoming.
My only thought, my only prayer: No more, dear God. Please! No more!