Eli the Good by Silas House, recommended to me by my friend Ellen Ruffin, turned out to be a good read for Veteran’s Day weekend. Eli, the adult protagonist, tells a story remembering his ten-year-old view of the conflict between his father, a Vietnam veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder; his mother closed within herself; his aunt who participated in the war’s protest movements; and his sister who adds her learning of a family secret to normal teenage angst. Marketed for young adults, the book has much for any reader who wants understanding of families who love their military members but have issues with their wars.
The protagonist sets out his purpose with, “. . . most all of the extraordinary things happen with no more loudness than a whisper,” and “whole scenes of your life can slip away forever if you don’t put them down in ink.”
Celebrating the bicentennial in 1976 brings the family conflict to a head. His description of the parade honoring veterans has some of the most poignant lines in the book. “But there were no veterans of the Vietnam War in the parade. I started to comment on this to my father, but when I turned to him, I could see his own recognition of this in his eyes and I knew it was something I shouldn’t mention.”
I remembered those days and the protests that often seemed aimed at the military members rather than those who had made the decision to go to war. I confess that like Eli, while my husband was in Vietnam, I sometimes took the protests personally. Military men and women don’t have the luxury of deciding whether a war is just, nor do they get to choose to go when it is convenient. A standing not-so-funny joke was often repeated when husbands shipped out before the baby came or the senior graduated from high school. “If the Army had wanted men to have a wife and children, it would have issued them.”
Today in remembering both Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving, I’ve been grateful for the current prevalent attitude of appreciation for those who have chosen military careers even by people who have serious questions about the wars in which we have been engaged. I’m grateful for the men and women who serve in dangerous and inconvenient places and often miss important family events because of this service. I’m also grateful for the good life of being a military family [except for the times when we were separated] that took us to faraway places and introduced us to a multitude of wonderful people.
In celebration, I’m going to put down some scenes from my life in ink and find some more books by Silas House!