I am in no way a military buff. I am a liberal pacifist who would spend a lot less on military budgets and a lot more on education and social services, if I had any real power. So, no one was more surprised than me when I got all choked up and weepy at last weekend’s AirFest 2011, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
What did it? The Heritage Dedication flight, which featured a present-day F-15 Strike Eagle flying side by side with a World War II era P-51 Mustang. They looked fraternal. They looked supportive of each other. They looked proud to be who they are and do what they do. Looking at them cruising gracefully in the perfect blue sky, above tens of thousands of patriots, I was moved. Right there I could see the past and present of our country’s Air Force history, and it humbled me and my passionate political opinions for a moment.
Perhaps it was the elegant way they flew, the F-15 seemingly unaware of its size and mass, and the P-51 innocently willing to get that close to a fighter jet so many times its size and power. Or maybe it was the way they shared the space, neither one willing to show off or excel at the expense of the other. Or was it simply that I was feeling grateful, fortunate to be on an Air Force base on a gorgeous fall day in Florida, celebrating the impossible things that our countrymen and countrywomen are willing to do out there in the world. The roaring and tearing of these fighter jets through the sky reminded me that Tampa is a city, but it is also an Air Force town.
My dad is a veteran who fought in the Vietnam War. That experience has turned him into a pacifist too, but you will never hear him say anything negative about the military or the people who serve in it. He has told my sisters and me painful stories of what it was like for him to come home from Vietnam, to a country that neither appreciated nor supported his service or that of his brothers and sisters in uniform. Even if our leaders have not learned from the foreign policy mistakes of past wars, at least our citizens have learned from the past how to respect our men and women in the military. Even if we disagree with them politically. Even if they are gay or immigrants.
I do not trust war or military might. I think that even military victories bring painful, often unintended consequences to the victors as well as the defeated. I think we, as a people, strike too quickly and plan too poorly. But we are imperfect, and that is okay. And as I stood there with my fellow Americans last weekend, gaping into the sky and clapping with pride, I got a glimpse of what people are after when it comes to supporting our military. I saw it, felt it, and I get it. I am proud to be an American too.
Causes Cari Oleskewicz Supports
Doctors Without Borders