Posted by: turtlebella | 29 May 2006

Not going to war

When the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred my father was 31 years old and an sculptorowl.jpg living in New York City. He had a wife and three children. His older brothers had lucrative businesses and families of their own. Without fault, they all volunteered and went to war. That is, all except my father. He was not a pacifist nor a concientious objector, mores the pity. When he tried to enlist, he was denied by all branches of the military. He tried the Red Cross. They wouldn't have him either. Partially deaf from birth, he was medically unfit to serve. Despite that he never really discussed this part of his life, I know that he was deeply upset that he could not serve. Instead, he turned to farming as a way to contribute to the war effort, a decision that radically altered his life, the lives of his wife and children, and ultimately my mother's and brought my life into a possbility. He moved, alone, to Arizona. I'm not sure where his wife and children lived for the duration. He apprenticed himself at a farm to learn the ropes, so to speak. After the war he became a cattle rancher and ultimately left his heart on a ranch in southern Arizona when we left in 1977.

On this Memorial Day, I don't really have anyone to memorialize. I have no immediate family members who lost their lives as members of the military, during war. My uncles came through World War II relatively unscathed. One of my cousins disappeared during the Korean War. He was apparently there as an "observer" and went on a joyride with an Air Force pilot friend in an Air Force plane. And "disappeared." I have my doubts as to what really happened. But I don't suppose we'll ever know. I'm not sure why my half-brother didn't go to Vietnam, he must have gotten a higher education deferral or whatever it was called at the time.

Of course my question is- what has changed? I don't see any of my family members, even those who are not ethically opposed to war, signing up to fight in Iraq or Afganistan. What's different between now and World War II? This is mostly a rhetorical question that I already think I know the answer to. But after all, we were attacked on September 11. Of course, there was much talk of young men and women wanting to join up immediately after. But less so people my dad's age with families, etc. And once we went to war on Iraq no one seems to be rushing to the recruitment offices in defense of our freedom and way of life. Maybe it's because many people don't actually believe our freedom is all that at risk. Well, at least from those outside our own government.

I respect the decisions made by my father and his brothers. But I also respect the decisions – made for a grand variety of reasons – made by the men and women of today to not go to war. And while it pains me, I will try to respect the decisions of those who have chosen to go to war. But I do not respect leaders who have made the decision to make war in the first place. At least here, today.



  1. Wow. I’d read that your dad was much older than your mom, but that correlation to Pearl Harbor brings it into much clearer focus.

  2. turtlebella, is it your dad who is chicano? just wondering cuz, my dad, who is chicano, counted it as one of the most embarrassing humiliating degrading points in his life that he wasn’t allowed to serve in vietnam. he was “head of household” (at the age of 18), and wasn’t allowed to. What i see as a mixed blessing (he was head of household because he had 8 siblings and no father and he was the sole bread winner–but at least he didn’t have to serve)–he sees as loosing out on an opportunity to prove his americaness. He was so busy being a mexican, fufilling his family responsibilities, that he didn’t get a chance to prove he was american, you know? It’s a very sad situation that i will never see eye to eye with my father on…I appreciate that you have taken the time to complicate Memorial’s Day…there’s a lot of pain just in the day itself, that has nothing to do with “war”, you know?

  3. BFP, no my mami is the Chicana (although she would call herself Mexican, you know, in the old-school way), my dad was white. Really interesting story about your dad though and one that I think was and is fairly common but not recognized. On top of wanting to prove one’s “american-ness”, I seem to recall something about the disproportionately large numbers of Latinos that are serving in Iraq. And everytime I visit my mami in the southwest I read about the children of the community who have died in Afganistan and Iraq. They are almost all Chicano/Latino/Native. When I think about what they are fighting for and how the government is taking advantage of la raza and their lives are subsequently taken from them, I get sick. And yes, Memorial Day more complex than just war and barbeques.

    And yes, Phantom, putting all the dates together makes it come home, how much older my dad was!

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