To mark Veteran's Day, this passage from my father's war novel—with love and gratitude to him, and to all veterans.
Then in front of one house he saw a small boy with big solemn eyes and short black bangs of hair. The boy stood alone beneath a wooden frame in which tiny silver fish hung to dry. He had raised one finger beside his face in salute to the troops, and the sight of him made Willy’s throat ache. Dimly he remembered another small boy saluting a passing convoy. It seemed a lifetime ago and a world away. It had been in San Diego when a replacement outfit left on a voyage coded Epic 83-A. Had this been truly an epic, beginning and ending with a child’s salute? What were little boys made of that they should feel sympathy for men of arms? Why did little boys develop an urge to use real rifles and cannons and Atom Bombs? Why had young Andrew Willy run away from his brother’s farm in Hanford, Washington, to end up years later in Nagasaki where a crop of plutonium from that selfsame Hanford, so the radio said, had helped demonstrate a process called atomic fission?
You never knew what you were getting into when you started. If there was a scheme to things it got more and more obscure as you went along.
—Boyd Cochrell, The Barren Beaches of Hell
image: Remembrance Day ceremonies, Australia, Getty Images, Craig Golding