peace - love - reason

Jill Of All Trades

Response to the Iraq Veterans Memorial

16.9.07 by literaghost

(Another response for the Peace Studies class. Site referenced is the Iraq Veterans Memorial. From the site: "The Iraq Veterans Memorial is an online war memorial that honors the members of the U.S. armed forces who have lost their lives serving in the Iraq War. The Memorial is a collection of video memories from family, friends, military colleagues, and co-workers of those that have fallen.")


My cousin left for Iraq in August. My mother's half-sister (his mother) relays me e-mails about his state of being; as I read them, I realize just how little I know about him. I was always closer to his younger sister, Meredith - when we were small, we girls would gang up against him in extended sibling rivalry, which usually involved one side barricading a door against the other. I would traipse about town and exchange clothes with Meredith, but I barely spoke to Jesse. Now, my mother asks me to help compile jokes and magazines for his care packages, but I have no idea what to include. What does he think is funny? What interests him? What sort of food does he like? What does he want to do with his life? What did he do on the weekends? And I wonder if I'll ever get another chance to know him.

War memorials can be strange things. The Iraq Veterans Memorial is different than most I've seen, and not just because it's online. The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D. C. - and, to a greater extent, our state one in Frankfort - attempt to make casualty statistics more personal by listing individual names instead of numbers. However, with these memorials, victims are still just names etched in cold stone. We still wonder what the people with those names were like, who knew them, and how they're remembered. The Iraq Veteran's Memorial does more than list names - it brings you face-to-face with the people behind the names and those who knew them; it shows you exactly who they were, what they looked like, what the faces of their friends and family in mourning look like. It also reinforces a detail many of us would rather not think about: That could be you.

I know more about the soldiers on the Iraq memorial website by watching a minute's worth of videos than I've known about Jesse my entire life. I can barely write him a letter - what would I put in a eulogy? I know full well how ill-prepared for that possibility I am. Too often we are fooled into thinking it won't be us, it won't be our friends or relatives or neighbors who won't come home. But it's always someone's - and they're not much different from us. What if we get the next blow?

Filed under having