Earlier this year, I read Eric Schlosser’s book “Command and Control,” which is about the nuclear missile program of the United States. I read it, in part, to learn more about my dad’s career in the Air Force.
My dad is a veteran. He served in the Air Force for 25 years. He was a missilier, which meant his career field was a complete mystery to me. He didn’t fly planes, he didn’t repair planes, he didn’t train for combat or learn how to parachute into enemy territory. He is a veteran of the Cold War–a war that goes mostly unnoticed by most Americans.
Reading Schlosser’s book, and thinking back to Stephen Ambrose’s books about World War II and about Ken Burns’ war documentaries, I became keenly aware of the lack of narratives we have about veterans who served in the Cold War.
Since my book was published, people have asked what my next book will be about. In my dream world, I am not bogged down by any responsibilities and I spend my days collecting narratives from veterans of the Cold War. In my dream world, I write a book about the impact of the Cold War on these veterans, and in the words of the musical “Hamilton,” I tell their stories. I make sure they are not forgotten, that they are just as recognized as the veterans of the wars memorialized in Washington, D.C. and other cities all across the country.
Right now, veterans of the Cold War are somewhat invisible. That’s in part a good thing, because it means they succeeded at their jobs. But their stories are still important, so one day soon, I’ll be sitting my dad down in front of my iPhone with Voice Memo turned on, and like the journalism teacher I am, I will ask him questions about the Cold War. At the very least, I will tell his story, even if it is only to his immediate family.
As with all veterans, it’s a story that deserves to be told.
ETA: I do not mean to imply other veterans were not successful at their jobs; that is not my opinion at all. The Cold War itself was a more invisible kind of war, with casualties we didn’t always see, and repercussions many of us never realized.