For Veterans’ Day we all go to this chain restaurant and get free hamburgers or steaks or molten lava cakes. The staff thanks each and every one of us as we walk in. They thank us when we sit. They thank us when they bring our meals.
The televisions in the restaurant show a popular news channel. The news channel shows a montage of soldiers doing surprise home-comings at their loved-ones’ baseball games, their jobs, their schools, clarinet recitals, PTA meetings, dentist appointments. The kids and the wives and the husbands are crying and running and jumping on the soldiers and squeezing and squeezing. Slow country music plays in the background. Our eyes swell with tears.
It is touching. But why am I touched. I would not want to hug that soldier who just killed a lot of people. I don’t even wanna hug myself. But he might need to be hugged because he was following orders. And of course his family misses him, he could’ve not returned. But he also made other people not return. I made people not return.
In the bathroom I vomit my free hamburger. I walk out. The hostess thanks me for my service. I thank her for her service in order to avoid saying You’re Welcome. She looks confused, No, thank you, if it weren’t for you we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. I don’t respond because I really don’t know if us killing people is helping anybody. I brush past her, looking at the ground. She thanks the guy behind me for his service. He says, No problem, we do it for you.
c.1100, "celebration of public worship," from Old French servise "act of homage; servitude; service at table; Mass, church ceremony," from Latin servitium "slavery, condition of a slave, servitude," also "slaves collectively," from servus "slave" (see serve (v.)).
late 12c., "to render habitual obedience to," also "minister, give aid, give help," from Old French servir "to do duty toward, show devotion to; set table, serve at table; offer, provide with," from Latin servire "be a servant, be in service, be enslaved;" figuratively "be devoted; be governed by; comply with; conform; flatter," originally "be a slave," related to servus "slave."
After looking up the roots of service, serve. I have made a decision. I have made a decision to not say or feel that I serve the military. Although it is mostly true. I have to kill when they say kill. Or die when they say die. But from here out I will only say and feel that I work in the military. Work. Not serve. I am trying to build a linguistic fence around my being, trying to make it true that I do not serve. I do not serve. But I am going on deployment next week and we will definitely shoot missiles that will definitely kill people. Which means I am definitely serving. My fence is breaking down. I work in the military. I serve the military.
Steven Dunn was born and raised in West Virginia, and after 10 years in the Navy he