Veterans days always make me feel weird.
Especially when someone says "Thank you for your service." You see, I was an infantryman in Vietnam, but I did not serve willingly. I was drafted, forced into a deadly form of involuntary servitude, and whatever illusions I might originally have had about the rightness of the war were quickly torn from me when I saw what we were doing to the innocent people, the sacred soils, the beautiful waters and jungles and mountains of that tormented land.
"No, don't thank me," I want to say. "Forgive me. Forgive me for participating in that awful event in your name. If you must thank me for something, then thank me for joining the movement to stop the war when I got home. Maybe thank me for the things I have tried to do for the castoffs of society--the mentally ill, the developmentally disabled, the emotionally damaged products of chaotic and abusive homes who have gone on to fill our jails and prisons. But don't thank me for going off to participate in the destruction of a foreign land whose residents never intended any harm to you or me."