Of history books and innocence

Published 3:22 pm Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Dearest readers, I like to keep my column light and fun, but this week, I feel it is only appropriate to address the young women and men, fathers and mothers, and husbands and wives in Ukraine, who are suffering from pain, both emotional and physical.  To start, let me share a story from my childhood.
Picture it: twelve-year-old M.M. making model WWII airplanes at the dining room table all day.  I must say, I was a little obsessed with old army stories, big bomber planes (specifically the B-17 Flying Fortress), and the music.  Especially the music.
I had stacks of WWII airplane books in my bedroom.  I listened to all the 1940s songs.  I read the book “Fly Girl” and told my parents I wanted to join the Air Force when I got older.
Back then, it was a slice of history that I found heroic and worthy of remembering––like when the B-17 Flying Fortress flew 24 missions to Germany without the single loss of a life.  Like how that pilot was raised in Asheville.  Like how Anne Frank was a young writer whose words are still read in classrooms.
When I was a kid, my parents showed me a video of what basic training looked like, and I forgot my sudden idea to join the Air Force.  I watched the movie “Memphis Belle” and saw a portrayal of what life looked like in the skies above Germany.  I read the pilot’s memoir, about his life before the war.  I watched with my mom the story of Anne Frank and how her dad lost his entire family. 
Flashforward to when I was in college.  Picture it: Poetry Class, and my professor told us to write an ode about something particularly serious or sad.  Something with grave weight.
So I wrote a piece about WWII.  The first words were this:
“Ode to the children too young for tattoos
Of the women forced bald
And the men born of Jews.”
My poem “Ode to the Tattooed” ended up getting published in a literary magazine. 
Flashforward to this week, when I was sitting at our dining room table working on an article about Ukraine. 
I said to my mom, “I thought these things only happen in history books.”
She responded by saying, “I know you did.  But you’re going to live through it.”
On the old T.V. show M.A.S.H, Hawkeye said, “War isn’t hell.  War is war and hell is hell, and of the two, war is a lot worse.”
He goes on to explain that sinners go to hell.  “There are no innocent bystanders in hell.  But war is chock full of them.  Little kids.  Old ladies.  In fact, except for a few of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.”
All that to say, I want to emphasize my empathy for the families who are suffering thousands of miles away from our peaceful small town.  My prayers are for those of you who have family in the military that have been deployed.
The world only gets scarier the further we go from childhood.  Innocence trickles away at every flicker of the news channel or sight of war.  As for this time of the unknown, it is only appropriate to address the young men and women, fathers and mothers, and husbands and wives in Ukraine, and pray for their suffering from pain. 
May God be with them now and for the rest of their lives.

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