I’m always conflicted on Veteran’s Day.

My whole family has served in some capacity in the military. My grandfather on my mother’s side was in the navy and I’m pretty sure fought in the Korean War. My father did at least two tours in Vietnam, was career infantry and ended his combat service fighting in Panama. My mother’s career was as civilian support but she was enlisted for a few years (where she met my dad). My sister ended up joining the army getting shipped off to operate a machine gun on a humvee in Iraq. Her first husband blew up IEDs, and her current husband has seen active duty in Afghanistan. My wife’s father was a navy man and one of her uncles was a medic in Vietnam. Her grandfather, her father’s father, liberated concentration camps. I was born on a military base. I was raised on military bases.

Over 60 years my family have done their duty. They have never shirked their duty to the country. But, honestly, there has never been a conflict over that time that was necessary. There has never been a conflict that in any way threatened my freedom or the freedom of others. My family has been deployed to fight wars that were started by politicians who wanted to pick fights. Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the Persian Gulf, the second Iraq war, and Afganistan were all wars started for selfish, egotistical reasons. At no point was my freedom threatened or my life threatened by any of the enemies in these conflicts.

So when someone says we should be proud of the military for guaranteeing our freedom, I feel I’m being lied to and that the people who say this are being disingenuous. Those that have died, did so because they obeyed the call of their country. I can’t and won’t fault them for that. But to kill another human being requires that you dehumanize them and that act warps you. It’s the reason why it’s so difficult to return to civilian, to ‘regular’ life, and why so many veterans stay in the military.

I can’t be a soldier. Perhaps that’s a failing. I don’t much care if anyone thinks it is or not. Here’s what I know for certain–soldiers have died and I’m guilty of their death; I’m guilty of the death soldiers have caused.

If I don’t speak out against militarism, against killing, then I am not just guilty but contemptible. The greatest service to your country is making sure no one is murdered and that no one has to murder. And that’s my pacifism.

I don’t expect or need you to agree or disagree. I’m just getting this off my chest.

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