Saturday, August 15, 2009

When dad comes home in a box

Army wives are soldiers too and by extension army brats are soldiers also. My father served in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and saw action in Korea, Vietnam and the numerous unresolved insurgencies of our republic. My mother in many instances had to raise us by herself and was resigned that one day, her husband will come home in a box. The children too had to accept that and that duty to the Republic will take their father from them. I never had the concept of Sunday being a "family day". Dad was on duty on Sundays or at the front. We had to soldier on.

When my father passed away years after retirement from the Armed Forces, my mother thanked the good Lord that her husband did not come home in a box. We brought the box home to bury our father.

But it is very heartbreaking to see a picture in the blurbs of a 3 year old boy rousing his dad to wake up from his coffin. But I believe that the boy had an inkling of his dad as a soldier. And all army brats are proud that their fathers wear the uniform. My heartbreak is not because the sergeant died in action, but that the boy probably never had much time with his father. Civilians will never understand that even a toddler or a small boy has to soldier on. Army brats have no choice.

I have soldiered on from the day I was christened in the Military Cathedral of Saint Ignatius of Loyola and have attended wakes of fallen soldiers in that church. (No wonder I am a Jesuit fan!) When our soldiers fall in battle, the nation should mourn and it should mourn the same way it did for Mrs Aquino. Soldiers do their duty, put their lives on the line and have very little perks. Mrs Aquino did her duty, placed her life on the line and as much as possible did away with the perks of her exalted office. They can't eat 20,000 dollar boodles. In fact it is outrageous for a soldier to eat a lavish meal when comrades don't eat these meals. I remember that dad fed me army rations when I spent my summers in Camp Capinpin with cadets in training. I'm used to this kind of slop!

Our citizens today no longer have any connection with the sacrifices and perils soldiers face unlike in my dad's generation. This gives us a political leadership that regards these sacrifices as typical. The present political leadership abolished ROTC, the only way for a citizen to have an inkling on what it means to defend the country. ROTC cadets are not expected to die for their country once they finish the course. But they do know that the country may ask them to give their lives for the country as on 8 December 1941. And they did without doubt or hesitancy.

Ninoy Aquino famously said "the Filipino is worth dying for" This is true only if the Philippines is worth defending for.

That's what the image of the boy rousing his dead soldier to awaken tells us.