good luck, soldier
Post #283 • May 24, 2004, 6:17 AM • 6 Comments
A couple of weeks ago a woman came into my studio and said some kind words about my work. I gave her a brochure and chatted with her.
Me: "So, what do you do?"
Her: "I'm a Marine."
"Wow. Have you been in Iraq?"
"Yeah. I'm a Marine nurse and I've been in Iraq for a while. I'm here on vacation."
"How has Iraq been going?"
"Not so good. A bunch of friends of mine have been killed and it's not for any good reason. But," she said with a shrug, "we got a job to do."
I had a thought that reocurred to me when I heard Chuck Close talk about teaching himself to paint again after his aneurysm: I am never going to complain about anything ever again.
I wondered if I could do her job. Perhaps I could, but not with the aptitude I have for art. (Artists do poorly in wars: Braque was trepanned, Beckman went mad, Caillebotte was killed outright.) I possess no real reserve of courage. I can muster it on demand, biting my lip. I have, on occasion, discarded common sense in a manner that resembled courage but wasn't. I have the courage to speak my mind, to travel, to try unfamiliar pursuits. I do not have the courage to be shot at.
Marine nurse. Putting your mangled friends back together. Good Lord.
"Thank you for defending me."
And then I wondered if she was defending me. We never did find those weapons of mass destruction. We barely found any chemical weapons. No attack was imminent under Iraq's old regime. This woman's evaluation of her own status on the battlefield was that the troops have no good reason for being there.
"Take care of yourself out there."
"I will. And I'm going to put this," my brochure, "up in my barracks. I'm going to enjoy having it to look at."
"I'd be honored."
Good luck, soldier. Thank you. Come back home in one piece.