An Old Veteran’s Pespective on Veteran’s Day

I have seen much in the seven decades I have been on this earth. I am a historical observer and sometimes a participant in historic events.

I was in Woodstock in high school. My friend and I made the trek hitching from Wall Street(where we worked) to Bethel, NY. Jumping over the fence and merging with thousands of people, wearing the most colorful clothe I have ever seen. I was like a Renaissance Fair, less knights and jousting. Long hair, period pieces from the time of the Civil War to the medieval era. No shoes, and a lot of moccasins.

The music was the essence of spirit. Tall loudspeaker towers, some people dangling on bars and the earth would shake when a bass note was played. Depending where you sat there was a latency until ears were penetrated. That is because of the long hair and distance from the stages. and height of the speakers. So, you just closed your eyes and flew over the ground until you were sitting below the singers.

People swayed as one, looking like wheat fields reacting to a light wind. No one was singing around me, since most voices were lost in the previous hours of shouting and singing. So we all listened and watched our youth disappear in the only concert of its king. From this day on, all of us went our separate ways, some to war, some to march against the war, and some just left the US for years.

After Kent State, I decided to leave and search for my roots and my homeland of Israel. I reduced every thing I owned to a medium back pack, five paperbacks and some silver dollars I received at my Bar Mitzvah.

A friend and I boarded Icelandic Air and landed in Amsterdam. It was the still the Sixties and the jumping off place was Amsterdam. Actually it was around the Dam Plaza, a counterculture assembly point from all over the world. Steve and I bought the requisite motorcycles, loaded our backpacks onto the bikes and noisily took off.

After a month, Steve decided to go south to Morocco. I could not go since I was born in Israel wherein even my American passport could not hide the fact that I was born into Israel’s first war and independence.

I returned to Amsterdam looking for a job and landed one in an American bar, playing piano, background music to loud groups. I would get a tip anytime I could recall a college alma mater, country and western songs for the US servicemen, or just plain blues for every one else. I then went on to other European capitals until it was time to go home to Israel to finish my studies.

Four  years after Woodstock and like Woodstock I was half buried in the mud, my face choking on muddy water each time a shell hit the ground. This was the Golan Heights a day into the Yom Kippur. Now I was observing the bloody mess of my unit after the Syrians decided to increase the frequency of shells to saturate the field we were on.

After the first day, I was a veteran. I saw enough to fill books but knew I would not be able to tell this story for at least another decade or so. Observers like me see so much that some times words cannot encapsulate what you felt. For survival your mind looks for nooks and crannies to bury the sights and sounds. Kind of a safety factor similar to the ones doctors have.

And so the old veteran if finally reaching back, pulling out observations and putting them now, five decades later, in context if to justify the humanity that remained.

A grandson, sits on my knee and asks me what it was like. I close my eyes pull out the script I prepared ten years earlier that hides much of the truth. It mostly consists of talking about others as if that will retain the distance from the ugly truths.

The child is content to hear the stories of others, but I know and fear that one day he will ask me about my adventures. I have not script for that, just a series of observations that have lost much of their clarity, thank you age.