It’s been years since I’ve seen The Messenger but like only a handful of movies, I remember its impact on me so well. All I could think as I watched was “Gosh I wish everyone would see this.” Today is Memorial Day. So I am going to watch it again.
As my children were growing up I had in my mind that I would make sure they would wait tables or tend bar at some point so that they would have an understanding and appreciation for the hard work that goes into restaurant service. I wanted them to be respectful patrons and tip well. To this day, being a waitress and bartender are the hardest jobs I have ever done. And I’ve had some pretty challenging jobs. It became apparent somewhere along the way that my kids would not have to do the job in order to get the point. They may never truly know what a hard job wait service is but they have a pretty good idea. I feel the same about military service.
I have had really good conversations with ex-Navy SEALs, ex and current military service people, and families of those serving or have served. These are some of the most interesting exchanges I have ever had. Although it is impossible to truly know what people go through serving in the military, which absolutely includes families, I believe movies like The Messenger and books like Unbroken give us a small glimpse. And if you are fortunate like I have been to actually speak to those who are serving or have served, that’s even better.
An ex SEAL’s perspective on war in general actually shocked me as we talked at a bar in California. I mostly listened. He was on his way to be with his SEAL buds for their monthly cook-out. These guys, all in their 40s get together to harpoon fish and then cook what they catch.
On a flight once I sat next to the young wife of a man enlisted in the Navy. She spoke of their life which I believe makes most military people and their families unique. Most things just don’t seem to bother them. Conditions they live in and having to adhere to whatever they are told to do, even on a moment’s notice as this young woman told me, makes for extremely flexible people. Pretty much nothing is a big deal. Including being told you’re moving in 10 days and need to drop what you’re doing, sell the car, pack, and be ready to deploy which was the case more than once in the life of this young couple.
Another gentleman I had the privilege to know when I practiced martial arts could not even speak of his experience in Viet Nam. He’d tried HARD to get his life together, get off drugs, stop drinking, and stop destroying every single relationship in his life.
I briefly met a group of WWII Ex-POWs and their wives once on an elevator ride. The ride was as long as an elevator ride could be. So why did my very brief time with these people impact me so? I could write pages and pages about that encounter. These human beings represented everything I respect — reverence, class, calm, non-judgement, presence. Even typing this now brings tears to my eyes — one man had one arm, one had one leg, and the other two walked with a cane. Their wives, well into their 70s were beautiful. Beautiful in the way they looked at their husbands as they spoke. Beautiful in the way they talked to my children and me. And although they showed no physical sign of wounds, I sensed they were different. Different than me. Different than other women who had not been through the horror of knowing your husband’s freedom was taken from him and the excruciating pain of not knowing what he might be going through.
So later today when I watch The Messenger again I will be reminded how utterly stupid I think killing is. And what a waste of mostly young lives war is. And I will also be reminded how fortunate I am to have been born in a country with so much going for it. And I will try my best to behave in a way so that those lost lives will not be forgotten. I will spend this day in contemplation, reflecting on what is important and why I am here. It may not be to serve my country in the way others have but in a way that reflects everything we stand for. As an integral part of the big picture. For equality of EVERYONE. For FREEDOM. And for PEACE.
I didn’t realize Woody Harrelson was nominated for an Oscar for his role in The Messenger. I’m not surprised.