So just a little side note, I haven’t shaved since the day after my father’s funeral. At this point I have a goodly amount of facial hair and I was enjoying it, but today that comes to an end.
There are multiple agencies that work with veterans here in the hinterlands where I live. Vets tend to move to areas where they feel welcome and familiar, and a whole lot of vets move to the Idaho panhandle when they ETS. You can almost tell what they’re like when the pick a place to live. Closer to Kootenai County, and you get more entrepreneurial mindsets. A lot of breweries/distilleries in Kootenai County are owned by vets, who spent a year in Iraq talking about what kind of beer they wanted when they got back to civilization, and then made that beer themselves. Once you get into Bonner County and Boundary County, you get the people who just go into the mountains and tell everyone else to leave them alone. It’s an interesting mix of people.
And of course, one thing that everyone has in common is the fact that at some point, life on this earth is going to end. The living WWII vet is fleetingly rare these days, as they would have to be over 100 years old. Korean War vets are also fleetingly rare, and the Viet Nam vet is getting to be rare. We think of people in terms of our own experience. My father was a Viet Nam vet, and so when I think of other Viet Nam vets, my brain thinks that they can’t really be that old because that would make ME old and I’m still like 25 or something, right?
Dad died at 83. Next week we’ll be burying one of his friends who was in his 70’s, a man who’s service included a Bronze Star, several Purple Hearts and a medical retirement in less than three years. A lot of these vets didn’t get a thank you when they came home. Thanking veterans for their service really started after September 11th, and it started because the Viet Nam vets were determined to ensure that the military members who were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan did not get treated as horribly as the Viet Nam vets were treated. Those who remember the election run of John “fuck your buddies” Kerry in 2004 might not understand just what a shift in thinking his run caused. For the first time in decades, Viet Nam vets were talking about their experiences and how people like John the traitor Kerry screwed them over when they got home from war. The outrage over John Kerry and his lies about the military broke a dam of emotion in those vets, and allowed them to finally speak about how they had been treated by the hippies and the Democrat Party backstabbing commies. I know that for my father it was cathartic.
One of the things that the community here does is to try to show appreciation to the vets when they can, to let them know that they’re appreciated. There’s a hospice group here that does their best to make sure that when a vet enters their services, they are given a show of appreciation. And sometimes that’s on short notice, because this is a hospice service after all, and they have one of the hardest jobs in health care, caring for someone at the end of their life and at the same time caring for the family members who are watching their loved one die, and everyone knows this is the end. The vet is given a plaque and a couple of letters written by local school kids, and offered a chance to talk about his service. Sometimes it’s funny stories, sometimes it’s just happy memories. Sometimes it’s tearful, especially when the family is there. But the hospice service always tries to find people who can present these items to the vet, and what this hospice service really looks for is other vets. Just for the visual alone, having someone able to wear the uniform presenting the plaque to the vet hits harder than if it’s a guy in a normal shirt and tie. Vets in the American Legion have their own uniform. Lots of veteran organization have their own uniform, as a lot of the vets can’t quite fit in to their old service uniforms after decades of normal life outside the military.
Retirees are authorized to wear the service uniform that they wore when they were still serving. The hospice service loves having people in full kit doing the presenting, because it not only shows respect to the veteran but it also hits the family pretty hard. Many families don’t have any real experience with the military because they met the veteran after they served so when a dress uniform walks in, their eyes get wide. But if you wear the uniform, you still have to be within regulation, and Army regulation states that you can’t have a beard. Or a handlebar mustache, although a CW5 might be able to get away with it.
So anyways, I’ll be shaving today for the first time in months. I’ll see if I can keep the mustache looking decent. If it looks ugly, it’ll come off as well. Gotta be in regulation to be in uniform. AR 670-1 and all that.