Kage Baker was the proud daughter of a veteran. She was the cousin, niece and aunt of several, too; the sort of American family where military service is a part of the normal part of life, and not a subject of unusual scrutiny.

There are myriads of families like that – lots of their sons ( and now daughters, too) go into military service because … well, that’s one of the things real people do. You pay your taxes, you go in for jury duty, you suit up and spend your time in the service of your country when you can and must. It’s not an attitude that calls for posturing or news conferences; it’s the bred-in-the-bone patriotism that makes every adult citizen as responsible for our country’s safety as they can manage to be.

Girls were not yet especially welcome in the Armed Forces when we were young, and no one would have taken Kage anyway: her eyes, her nerves, her dreamy unawareness of authority …  Me, I applied to the Air Force (I wanted to go to space, ha ha) but one look at my eyesight and they stifled a laugh and said No. Besides, it was just before girls got to fly (I’m older than you are, Becky!), and they had no use for me other than for the receptionist work I ended up in on Civilian Street. But I tried.

The men who go to war from these families don’t talk much about it afterwards. One of the things I have noticed, from my relatives and playmates and lovers, is that men who saw real action are often quiet about it. And now that women are doing it, too, much the same attitude prevails. Those who dream  hungrily of battle are seldom those who ever had to face it; the war stories I have heard from the veterans in my life have mostly been brief, thoughtful, in the middle of the night conversations. Often, they’ve been nightmare soliloquies from the sleeping.

There’s a hill somewhere on the border of China I have heard taken a thousand times; a thousand times, too, the sergeant and medic both buy it before anyone makes it to safety. There are mortar barrages against hot cloudy night skies in Vietnam I’ve heard narrated in three languages. Neither of those story-tellers talked about them, though, when they were awake.

The agonized poetry that does come out of those times is memorized by school children, who don’t get the goosebumps from them until years later – but the point is made, the blood remembers, and for the rest of your life you weep at the poppies of Flanders Field. And it’s the silence of the actual participants that demand we remember this, that requires us to recall and mourn and honour all those men who have been silent since their own times under fire and hell ended.

That’s pretty much what today is for, I think. Kage thought so, too. She wore a poppy, always. It used to be easy to find them; lean old men in dress blue and white handed them out at bus stops, or on the porch of the church after Mass. It’s gotten harder to find them these days – the one on my desk is a decade old – but they’re there if you look. Go to an American Legion Hall, track down the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or go walk among the snow-drop lines of headstones in the Veterans’ Cemetery out on Sepulveda: someone will hand you one.

If you can’t find one, make one. Kage and I did, more than once. Some crepe paper, some florists’ wire, some red, white and blue tape – if you ever made crafts flowers in school, you can make a veteran’s poppy.

War is not good, soldiers don’t want to die, and most hope that we if we take up their quarrel with the foe, we’ll have the sense to end it. But in the meantime, it behooves us to remember those who suffered and died for us, the living.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 11/11/11

  1. JoyJoy says:

    ” …if we take up their quarrel with the foe, we’ll have the sense to end it. ”

    And that is the whole point.


  2. I have not seen a ” Buddy Poppy” in the wild for some years. My real ones that I had had for some years, failed. So I went on line to look when I noticed all the Brit politicos and BBC types had got theirs on by Halloween. Well I would seem that all that might be found were indeed British and very pricy not counting shipping. I asked Mrs. S for red felt, or if we might find some at Michael’s. She replied that was dead out. Anything they might have was crap, and not what I wanted at all. She found some small bits of ancient proper red felt and went to work. ablack copy of a tuxedo button and a button safety pin and
    Bobs your uncle. I now have something durable and won’t have to cough up f12.50 plus shipping to the British Legion. Oddly, while I was out and about on Veterans Day at veteran’s events, I saw no other poppy. Lots of old men in bits of uniform, in ball caps identifying their service, no poppies. I do know that the Catholic Church by Veterans Memorial Park Tolled the 11th hour, but the speaker did not shut up. When the Fly over came by, early, because I assume they were heavily booked for the day, we all came to attention and saluted. I looked up and to my surprise, of the five aircraft, four of them had Iron Crosses on the wings and the black and Grey paint of the Luftwaffa . Just because we live in a company town? They had another gig?


    • Kate says:

      Ah, you are such a man of your hands, sir. Good for you.

      As for the German-painted planes – God He only knows. There are usually air shows out in the San Fernando valley on holiday weekends, and I could hear literally dozens going over the house here on the edge of Griffith Park. I suppose they might have summoned up some actor planes, as there seems to always be something filming here about WWII … the History Channel is at the bottom of it, I am sure. Although Mr. Obama was down in San Diego, at a basketball game on a warship – but we don’t usually send out Luftwafa re-enactors to honor the Commander in Chief … life is an unending mystery.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.