all of the selves we Have ever been
It is graduation weekend.
And what should have been a special day for so many of our high school and college seniors.
COVID-19 has cancelled this rite of passage in 2020. Along with their children and grandchildren, parents, nanas, and papas mourn the loss of the opportunity to celebrate both this academic achievement and the bittersweet end of childhood.
I remember another such time.
I carried my Philco transistor radio to school so I could listen as Selective Service officials called out the birth dates drawn in the draft lottery of 1973. I had prepared a list of the birthdays of my young male friends graduating from high school that year. The paper was tucked inside the black leather cover of my little radio. I attended to the broadcast with bated breath and crossed fingers.
It was another frightening time in world history. Families could attend graduation ceremonies and celebrate in whatever manner they chose, but having your birth date called in the lottery and winning a trip to Vietnam put a damper on graduation for many.
Some men volunteered and served willingly. Others were drafted and went reluctantly. Some refused. They left the country, went into hiding, or spent time in jail. Much like now, the streets were full of protesters who did not believe in that war or in being forced to serve. It gives me perspective when asked to wear a face mask into a grocery store. I could have been asked to wear a gas mask into a jungle.
Back to my radio.
Just a few weeks into the COVID-19 outbreak, I heard a report on my car radio. It was announced that the virus already had taken more lives than did ten years of the war in Vietnam. More perspective.
Ironically, COVID-19 is a new war on the same men and women who served in Vietnam, those folks 63 years of age and older with pre-existing conditions. Adding to the irony is that many of those pre-existing conditions are the result of their service in Vietnam—the wounds of war and the ravages of Agent Orange. Many of our Vietnam veterans suffer from illnesses linked to the widespread use of the herbicide during that war, conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, at least seven different types of cancer, skin disorders, heart disease, and painful neuropathy. They seem to keep getting what they didn’t ask for. It remains a jungle out there for these veterans.
As COVID-19 forces each of us to do things we don’t want to do, to make sacrifices we don’t wish to make, it would be lovely this graduation weekend to honor our Vietnam veterans alongside our class of 2020.
Congratulations to our senior class of 2020!
And thank you to our classy seniors, our Vietnam veterans!