On Shotguns and Veterans

This is an older essay I wrote that received some praise so I wanted to republish it here in a more fitting home. It could use some clean up and it probably would have been a little different if written today, but I left it unchanged.

So, I bought a new home defense shotgun the other day and in the course of getting to know the gun shop owner, I showed him a rifle given to me by my grandfather, who was a Navy pilot in WWII. My grandfather was kind of gun nut and I always appreciated that he was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his rights and ultimately mine, including that of owning a firearm.

That of course got me thinking about him and my other grandfather, who was an aircraft mechanic in WWII, and I recalled a day when I was visiting the former mechanic grandfather at his retirement home.

His room was a shared room, and he was paired up with another WWII vet, Mr. French. My grandfather wasn’t really too coherent at this point in his life, so I had more of a conversation going with Mr. French, who asked me essentially, “What do we need to do to get America back on track?”

At the time, I took the question at face value and offered a few thoughts, but it was a tough question to respond to, given its complexity and the history of the man who asked it.

Coming full circle, I was sitting out on my porch last night, racking some rounds through my new gun, and I had a deeper, sadder thought about that question and the man who asked it. I realized that here was a man who was willing to give his life for America, looking back at his life and looking at America as it now existed, and questioning what it was all for. I realized that for all the question’s simplicity, just how tragic it really was.

I don’t think Mr. French is around anymore. Neither are my grandfathers. But I hope that never again will a veteran have to look around at the country they were willing to die for and wonder if it would have been worth it.