Editor, The Commercial:
For at least half a century, Boomers wore badges. I do not know exactly how many had them, but it's safe to say our numbers ran into the millions. They were so commonplace, most of us never gave them a second thought; many probably forgot about them.
I barely recall the day I got mine. School was still something new, being in the first grade, when we were herded into the auditorium at Lakeside Elementary School and lined up to pass before a physician who was flanked by a couple of nurses. As we passed, sleeves raised, a strange-looking "gun" was pressed to our arms and made a pneumatic spit when the trigger was pulled.
Many kids whimpered or cried, more from fear than actual discomfort, but all were reassured that it was for our own good; it would keep us from getting sick. Over the next few days, our teachers and parents would check to see if there was any reaction to the shot, other than a mild rash for some.
Our "badges" were so common that we soon forgot about them, though they were still readily visible on the kids in gym class in high school: little pink circles, high on the left arm, sometimes enclosing a few small dots where the actual poliomyelitis vaccine had jetted into our bloodstreams.
The importance of those by-then-forgotten scars was brought home a few years after I got mine when our teacher introduced a new student to the class, a girl with metal braces encircling both legs who used a pair of metal crutches to walk. She had already gone through several treatments for the crippling disease that devastated her muscles, and would go through many more in the years to come.
We were told to not make fun of the new girl, but of course we did, and quickly learned to dodge the shiny rods that were swung at us. We soon accepted her, though, and in time she would lose the leg braces and get about with but one crutch. Even that was long gone when she strode, with but a limp, to the podium as the salutatorian of our senior class.
Our badges have mostly faded now, as have many memories of youth long past. Yet it is hard to imagine, when a new threat arose to endanger our world, our species, that we who wore that badge would even hesitate to once again roll up our sleeves.