In America we take many things for granted. Like those who have served our country bravely. In Washington, D.C., veterans rallied during the recent government shutdown. Popular media portrayed them as a few disgruntled white southern Tea Party hacks that were led by some polarizing political figures. Yet the truth is far from that. Sure, those polarizing figures as well as other prominent conservative voices participated, but the truth is that real, live American veterans, young, old, black, white, stood to be heard. But they are not honored with respect. They are not honored with acknowledgment. They are not honored with allowing to see their monuments. America shunned the veterans then. Our politicians did nothing to bow to the will of veterans who simply wish to honor their own, and expect a little honor in return. "No," is what D.C. said to them. "You march here, but none of this is yours. Your service was futile then, and even today you will not be heard." Yet that did not stop those vets. Trudging along those gray streets of Washington, across the Mall and to the White House, barricades that had blockaded those vets' monuments were piled peacefully before the peoples House; Where an executive continues to hide behind his titles and tinted windows, away from the veterans from then and now that came to stand; Futilely asking and petitioning their government to relinquish their forced shutter of the American facades that display the bravery of the costly wars and expeditions that led to an empire that was always involved and required service; Both voluntarily and involuntarily of the souls who died in payment for that empire to exist and grow.
Sure, the events are behind us now. But here is the story from an odd, or rather, informative point of view.
Though as they marched and came before the man who now represents America as its leader who has disavowed his own oath, to defend the land and protect the Constitution that governs it, they lay bars of metal that this mans own people placed in the way of ranking service members and true Americans to see the monuments built for them and others to remember them. They highlighted the hypocrisy that day when the presidents' own people, only following orders, took their hours of daylight to reposition these barricades back to the places they were removed. In near perfect lined fashion, those metal gates stood reverently and stoically, without feeling, as guardians to serve the will that their masters claimed was an honorable guard. "Go, stand before those marble and granite engravings and depictions and let no one cross that line. We can't afford to have them be seen." And no word was uttered. By those who mobilized those aluminum and iron guards, or the guards themselves. They were only doing as they were told. Yet somewhere there was an inkling of doubt amongst them, as a former guard in flesh approached their stand. "Halt. Who goes there?" the stout guards seemed to silently whisper. They were certainly a (nearly) cold, unbending and immovable lot. Yet they listened. "You see, guards, I was once like you," said the man, the veteran. "I, too, stood for something. This country. And I fought. I took my orders. I guarded. I protected. I thought that I was honored, for doing something brave. I saw friends who died. Their names are inscribed behind you somewhere. I came here to find them again. I came to this city which I believed in at one time. I came to honor them, as I know they would honor me. I don't know if you care, but I am a son of America and I did not come 2,000 miles to be turned away by my very own government. I once fought for their sake and mine. Yet I know it is not your fault. You are only following orders. But I know you understand. You are like me. A gate, a guard that stands guaranteeing this country will live on. But at this time we must both break our orders and uphold our oaths, and display our honor for this country. Will you, guard, stand aside and let me and my countrymen carry out our sacred will?"
The gates, unwavering, stood their ground and contemplated for awhile. Yet they did not have to think long. They too understood. Guarding against those who guarded their country was not an honorable task. And even as metal gates, which seemed cold and unsympathetic, were none to stand in the way of liberty and freedom.
So as the man waited patiently, he was gathered now amongst fellow servicemen, their families and their friends to carry on traditions of honoring. They received their reply. "We're sorry that we've barred you from your own. Please, let us march with you on your journey to make America free again." And so as a testament to those who gave their lives in service to their country and what they thought was right, the guards relinquished their grip on the miles of perimeter that was standing in the way of Americans. They marched with those who had come before to rally before the executive which gave them orders. And no matter how many more times that they'd be deployed that day or any other, those guards always knew that they would relinquish their stronghold when freedom and liberty came to call.
Sam Ludtman lives in Reno.