There is a new species of hero abroad in the land!
And, no, I don't mean President Donald Trump, who now regards himself as a "war president."
And, no, I don't mean those guys who "almost joined the military." As the nation slides deeper into uniform worship, the "I almost joined" brigade has swollen to the size of an army. Apparently, even thinking about serving your country is as good as serving. I have a friend, an Army veteran, who has considered punching those who swell with pride when they tell him they "almost" joined. He has yet to throw that punch. Discipline, I guess.
Now comes something new in the world of sucking up other people's achievements.
You can, if you like, buy a T-shirt with "World War II Veteran Son," printed on the front. Below that, of course, the flag. Below that, the words, "Most People Never Meet Their Heroes. I was Raised By Mine." I haven't seen a "daughter" version of the shirt yet, and I hope I never do. I want to keep my belief that women are less prone to heroic fantasy than men.
Full disclosure: I have never served in the United States armed forces. By the time I came of age, there was no draft. I didn't join.
My father was a World War II combat veteran, and he was not nostalgic about his service.
"The Army's great if you're one of those dopes who needs somebody to tell him what to do every minute of his life," Pop used to say.
He had been drafted, broomed up off the streets of a midsized New England city. He was 22 and had never been to Boston, which is 50 miles north of where he was born.
He rose to the rank of sergeant, came home, threw away every scrap of his uniform, never joined a veterans organization and never touched a gun for the rest of his life.
When he died, I had doubts about having the flag on his casket. I finally did it, not for his sake, but for the other veterans who attended his wake, even though I knew he thought their notion of "brotherhood" was laughable.
"You ever go down to one of those veterans' places?" he asked me once. "This one's the commander in chief, and the other guy is the sergeant at arms and they're all saluting each other.
"Didn't they get enough of that crap when they were in the Army?" he said. "Because I got enough of that crap when I was in the Army."
Ah, but guys my age (I'm 62), guys who never joined the military, how eager we are to climb on the back of our dead fathers with a T-shirt claiming that somehow we partake of their heroism. No doubt these are the same people who say we don't need to worry about the effects of slavery because, "No one alive now ever owned a slave."
Leave the dead men alone. It was their war. It was their sacrifice. It was their blood and their fear and their pain. Let them keep it with them in their graves, and let them tell the old stories up in heaven if they want, though I doubt anyone in heaven tells war stories. Instead, they look down over the sides of that raft made of clouds, and they watch humans return to killing and war like a dog eating its own vomit.
And they are not sad, because no one is sad in heaven, but they understand, at last, that their war never stops happening. You drop the gun and someone else picks it up. And no one there ever salutes anyone.
To find out more about Marc Munroe Dion and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. Dion's latest book, a collection of his columns written during permanent war, is called "Devil's Elbow: Dancing in the Ashes of America." It is available in paperback from Amazon.com, and for Kindle, Nook, GooglePlay and iBooks.
Photo credit: DZackCulver at Pixabay