Corporal Walker's morningWhite Pine welcomes home a war veteran and hero today. Marine Corporal Bradley J. Walker, who lost both of his legs in the war in Iraq, will pull into town at about ten this morning on a 30-day leave. What Cpl. Walker may or may not be aware of is that this little town of just less than 2,000 people has prepared a welcome for him with all of the pomp and circumstance that it can muster.
The signals of a patriotic celebration are everywhere to be found this morning. Up and down Main Street flags are hanging from every business, church, and public building. Red, white, and blue bunting is festooned from rooftops and facades. Small flags held in place by yellow ribbons are on nearly every pole in town. Out in front of the U.S. Bank branch a short walk from my house on the corner of Main and Creamery Streets is a huge homemade sign that reads "Welcome Home Brad." The White Pine Board of Mayor and Aldermen have declared today "Bradley Walker Day."
It may seem like somewhat of a common occurrence in this time of an unpopular war for those who live in larger and more metropolitan places. This celebration is quite remarkable, however, for the fact that support for our war policy in Iraq is really far from unanimous here. A good way to figure this out is to listen to the men who gather at Allen-Surrett's Hardware Store or at the Sanitary Drugstore every morning. Groans of collective dissatisfaction and disquiet emanate from the room whenever someone mentions the war. The war makes everyone in this heavily-Republican stronghold uncomfortable, and among those who I have heard be vocal in their opposition, even angry.
Few believe, however, that this anger should be reflected upon heroes like Corporal Walker. Many people here are old enough to remember Vietnam, and how returning troops were treated in the wake of a disastrous policy over which they had no control. These men and women have, in many cases, committed acts of self-sacrifice and heroism we can only imagine in our finite minds. The commitment to country of our fighting men should not be questioned, even as we evaluate the wisdom of the war itself at home.
Appreciation for self-sacrifice does not know opposition here, and I am glad that it does not. Corporal Walker deserves a hero's welcome for his commitment to serve far beyond what this town can give him.