This is Sacramento's Korean War memorial obelisk, in Capitol Park.
I really like the look of it.
It has sharp, clean lines that make it soar upward and seem taller than it is. It is also broken down the center on all four sides, an imperfect and ragged edge that draws the attention immediately. The top is sheared off as if torn. Every surface is covered with photographic images. There's something warm about it, but I'm not sure what. Maybe the color. At the base is a circle of lush grass, surrounded by concentric circles of pale gray paving stones. There are stone benches along the edge, and on one side, stone placards dedicated to different military units.
The defining moment for me concerning the Korean War was the fact that until my junior year of high school, I didn't know it existed. This shocks me, still. I grew up watching MASH with my parents, but at the time, I thought the war in question was Viet Nam, and the person in charge of setting was just really bad at approximating the tropics.
It's chillingly sad that in my case, the nicknames for the Korean War were so accurate.
"People keep wishing me a Happy Veteran's Day. Happy Veteran's Day, they say. Veteran's Day is not happy."
I don't want to philosophize about my visit today, or try to force it into some cosmic uber-meaning. Just that he's right. Why in god's name would you ever wish someone a "happy" Veteran's Day? It does not roll off the tongue. It does not evoke grins. It's not a celebration at all as much as a meditation on experiences that, hopefully, most of us cannot understand. It's recognition of people like him, who understand now whether they want to or not, and of other people who never came home.
He said more. "When I had to wipe Steve's lips off my eyebrows, that was not happy."
We often glorify war. We trivialize things and try to give them cosmic meaning. We make it about warriors and honorable death. It's hard, maybe impossible, to handle otherwise.
I'm honestly not sure what I'm trying to say here about my visit to the memorial today. Every time I try to analyze, the result is unsatisfying and vaguely insulting. I want to celebrate the people who fought and sacrificed, but true "celebration" seems inappropriate. I'd want to wish happiness, but I don't feel it's my place today. I guess I'd like to not analyze it, not try to find any higher meaning. Instead I want to acknowledge that it HAPPENED, that people fought, that it brought out the best in some and the worst in others, that I cannot understand what any of them went through, and I'm very grateful that I can't.
No war should be forgotten.