Most American veterans are familiar with the fictitious character named Jody who is mentioned in songs, cadence calls (Jody Calls), and frequently referred to by drill sergeants during recruit training and beyond.
Get On Back Home
I don’t know why I left
But I must’ve done wrong
And it won’t be long
‘Till I get on back home
Got a letter in the mail
Go to war or go to jail
Sat me in that barber’s chair
Spun me around, I had no hair
Used to drive a Cadillac
Now I pack it on my back
Used to drive a limousine
Now I’m wearing Army green
Dress it right and cover down
Forty inches all around
Nine to the front and six to the rear
That’s the way we do it here
Used to date a beauty queen
Now I date my M-16
Ain’t no use in lookin’ down
Ain’t no discharge on the ground
Ain’t no use in going back
Jody’s got your Cadillac
Ain’t no use in calling home
Jody’s got your girl and gone
Ain’t no use in feeling blue
Jody’s got your sister too
Took away my faded jeans
Now I’m wearing Army greens
They took away my gin and rum
Now I’m up before the sun
Mama Mama can’t you see
What this Army’s done for me
Mama Mama can’t you see
This Army life is killing me
Jody can be male or female, young or old, a private citizen or a politician. But as long as service folks are busy defending the country, Jody’s back home stealing what’s theirs.
Jody’s the one responsible for all those Dear John letters. The one who spits on returning war veterans. The one in government who works against those fighting the war. The one who calls for “redeployment” and won’t let them win. The one who calls them mercenaries, murderers, or worse. And Jody’s the director of their unwelcome nightmares and horrible memories.
As if Jody weren’t enough, years later and after the hitch is up, service personnel are faced with the often bittersweet task of returning home.
My return was just such an experience. After a long and lonely trip, I finally arrived home with my duffel bag in tow. I was a Disabled American Veteran (DAV) standing on a doorstep during a cold, predawn blizzard. Before me was a dark, empty house. There was no one there to greet me. There was no parade, no fanfare, no crowd. There was only me, my broken body, and my memories.
Almost immediately I noticed that home had drastically changed, or so I thought. Over the next few days I concluded that home was gone, or so I came to feel. Jody had completed the mission of robbing me of everything I fantasized about returning home to.
Over time I came to know that what I had called home was actually my innocence and the unconscious, underlying feeling that the world was a safe, secure place. These were things I once possessed, but didn’t realize it until they were gone.
Later on I had the stark epiphany that home had remained largely unchanged, while I had changed in a very significant way. In any case, the feeling of being home had slipped away from me and apparently was gone for good. And in the space where home once lived, Jody had moved in. Just as home would never return, Jody would never leave.
Jody, I came to understand, was a metaphor for all we sacrificed, all we lost, and all we experienced as we served our country. This was of little consolation to me. I still missed home. I needed to be home. I didn’t feel safe. And I longed to have these things back. I will long for them the remainder of my life.
Through this experience, I have never once questioned my decision to join the army. It was absolutely the second best decision I ever made in my life. The first was marrying the woman who is now my wife. I am a better man for serving my country. I’m proud of my service. And if I were younger and physically fit, I’d do it all over again, yet I’d try to do an even better job than I did the first time. For all that I lost, I gained back tenfold.
My heart goes out to all the current and past service personnel who have experienced or will experience their own bittersweet homecoming and their own personal encounters with Jody.
Thankfully there are thoughtful individuals who understand the importance of welcoming veterans home. They are kind enough to make time to greet returning service members. These are wonderful people and some of America’s finest citizens. I salute each and every one of them.
While these wonderful folks cannot undo the damage done by Jody and war, they can make homecoming a little less bitter and a little more sweet.
Hot Air has a video about welcoming heroes home. ABC has the original story here as one of their Person of the Week episodes. This video inspired me to write this post and reminded me of my own tumultuous homecoming from the U.S. Cavalry.
I encourage you to take a look, and take a hankie — you’ll need it.
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