by John Christy
Not able to find the correct ink cartridge on the shelf, I went to the tech support desk for assistance. I took up the last spot in line behind a young man dressed for the summer heat.
I noticed that the entirety of the skin on his left leg was covered with the keloid tissue consistent with 3rd degree burns. Interspersed within that tissue were numerous surgical repairs, yet to be finished. This tissue extended up his left arm, above his wrist and upper arm and disappeared under his T-shirt. His short hair gave way to the damage to his left ear and more scars to his neck and head.
When he had completed his business he turned my direction. There was a scar on his forehead and the eye beneath had a milky opaque covering. As he passed I raised my hand to get his attention. When he stopped I asked, “Are you a Vet?” With a wry smile he responded, “How could you tell?” Because I despise that stock phrase of the contemporary civilian population I said instead, “I’m glad you made it. Welcome home.”
Something about that overly used idiom bothers me. I can’t say it to another Vet, anymore than I like it being said to me. I’ve tried to explain my anger to myself with no adequate success. I’ve tried to blame it on the general publics lack of imagination for a creative response. The origin of this expression was eaten by the big-bad-wolf in the vernacular forest long ago.
Though it continues to represent fingernails on a chalkboard when I hear it said, I don’t have the right to feel annoyed. I have everything to feel grateful for in my life. I only need to look at those other veterans familiar to me that have suffered far more physically devastating injuries than I. Jeff, who lost part of his leg in Afghanistan; Duey and Jim that will spend the remainder of their lives in wheel chairs; and more recently, Aaron Causey who lost his legs but remained very grateful for what he has in his life.
I have recently found a method of putting down my indignation. July 4th, 2022 I was listening to a Marine Corps veteran, Joey Jones, speaking about his military experience. He also was an EOD specialist disarming an IED. When it blew up, he lost both his legs and his best friend at the same time. When he remarked that a civilian said to him “thank you for your service” he promptly responded by saying, “thank you for being from a country worth fighting for.” Thanks Joey. I think I can live with that one.