What Martin Luther King Jr. Day now means to me

Truthfully, I will not be addressing that directly as such. Much more oblique will be my comments.

But first some initial resources:

Five years ago today—well, it was 20 January in 2003—I was sitting at home listening to the MLK Jr. specials on the radio (NPR) when at 4:02 PM CT I heard that 12,000 soldiers from Fort Hood (4ID) were being mobilized.

4th Infantry Division (4ID) is the division I retired from and the one my son was serving in at the time. Not that this was publicly known yet, but they were to be the hammer out of the north from Turkey in the initial invasion of Iraq.

Later that evening after a couple pints of beer and attempted reading I went by the ex’s for a hug and some talk. Jeremy called while I was there. Said aircraft had to be on ships down south by the end of the week & they’ll be 2 weeks behind. When I got home from Mary’s I called my mom and then my sister.

So, here I am, almost 44 years old & my baby’s ordered to war. Where did I go wrong? [my journal, 9 PM 20 Jan 2003]

The complete irony of the formal announcement of these deployments on Martin Luther King Jr. Day did not escape me. Nor will it ever.

My son’s deployment was quite hard on me. The reasons are quite complex and I will never fully understand them myself and certainly never be able to explicate them to others.

My son and his family have been lucky so far and he has had a job for the last couple years such that—unlike many who have been back several times in the last almost 5 years of war—he has not. That shall change soon, though. He is on his way back to Fort Hood and the 4th ID.

So here I sit again contemplating my son’s (possible) deployment.

That, and so much more, is what Martin Luther King Jr. Day will forever mean to me.

… consistently we are resistant to love …

Four Bitchin’ Babes. “Beautiful Fool.” Beyond Bitchin’

Song I used to “commemorate” MLK Jr. Day 2003, the mobilization of 4ID and the march to war on my 2003 compilation CD.

4 thoughts on “What Martin Luther King Jr. Day now means to me

  1. I have a similar, though far less personal memory: listening as the US Congress voted one by one to go to the “first” Gulf War on January 15, 1991. To say that it it pisses me off that that date would get chosen, yet again, to launch a plan of attack on that date is an understatement.

    My thoughts will be with you and yours–and may next year’s MLK Day be one we can celebrate.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Laura. I should remember this one, too, but as it was me in the Army back then I have other memories of it all.

    Part of the issue may be that I was in a several month school and had little contact with much media so perhaps I missed it or maybe I simply don’t remember. It certainly seems like I should have known at the time. Or another possibility is that we had and were being deployed and deployment (especially on that short time frame) always mean the death and permanent injury of service members, which is something most people don’t think about. People only die once the shooting starts, right? So perhaps for me and my fellow brothers- and sisters-in-arms that vote wasn’t all that critical.

    I definitely remember the start of the war, though. I was riding with my friend Terry to his home in Dublin, GA from Fort Gordon, GA (Augusta) and the bombing started while we were on the road. We went directly to some friends’ of Terry’s and watched the ensuing destruction on CNN.

  3. Makes sense. I was a freshman in high school and just basically horrified–in some ways, more than I ever have been since. It’s alarming to think that I may have gotten used to this sort of thing, but that may be true.

  4. Laura, I do not claim any particular connection between these events which are probably due more to the 20 year example my son saw by my own actions but …

    My son was 10 years old when the war started and was home from school with the measles (or mumps or chicken pox). His mother allowed him to watch it all on CNN while I was away at school for 4-months, a 12-hour drive away. I may well have allowed him to watch some of it but I would have limited the amount of viewing and would have tried to contextualize it some. And, no, I do not mean to blame her; just stating the facts.

    He has now been in the invasion and first 11-months of this war and is probably soon on his way back. It is a horror with which I shall always live. Where did I fail is a question I frequently ask myself.

    And honestly, I am so fucking terrified. I didn’t take his 1st deployment well and I don’t know how I am going to deal with this one. Many people have had it far worse than me or my son. That is a fact of which I am well aware. And my heart bleeds for them all to no end. But there is a vast difference when it is someone else’s loved one and your own.

    Some deal with it by believing in the cause and considering all our service members to be heroes. I, though, have never been a believer and I know better. Sure. People do heroic things but just being a soldier (sailor, airman, marine) does not a hero make.

    And we do become inured to all of this which is what our government counts on. Especially considering the vast majority of those in the Federal government have never served in the military. Once upon a time not too long ago it was the exact opposite and a majority had.

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