The Veterans I have known
The title of “Veteran” is something I have come to respect more and more with every breath I take. I have learned from my experiences with veterans that they have sacrificed willingly. They are people of peace since they know the true cost of war. They are often silent about their bravery, courage and hard won battles.
My uncles were veterans. They were in WWII and Korea. One was my scoutmaster for years. I went hunting with him a few times also. In all those years he only told 3 stories about the war. None was about grand exploits in battle. One story was humorous about scaring an enemy instead of hurting him. The next story was about working long and hard for days on end without sleep. When given a chance to take a short rest, he slept for 24 hours, through the final Battle of the Bulge. And last how embarrassed he felt about not being able to eat all he had taken on his trip home on the boat. It was his first full meal in months and his eyes were bigger than his stomach. I didn’t understand then why he never said more.
My second uncle fought through Italy. He never said much about it.
My third uncle was in Korea. His friends called him the preacher. If he went on a recon mission at night, his friends would go with him. They knew he would come back. I never heard it from him, only from others. He didn’t say much about the war either.
My friend was in the army in the Philippines when WWII started. He spent much of his time in a prisoner of war camp. I learned about his bravery after someone else mentioned it. He doesn’t make much of saving the life of a woman. Saving her normally would have gotten him killed. He survived a major beating at the hands of his captors instead. He asks that we read a book about what happened then. He doesn’t want to talk about it.
My brother’s friends went to Viet Nam. They would try to say something about the war from time to time, but they couldn’t talk about it. Many had to come home and face the misplaced anger of those fighting against war. They didn’t understand that soldiers don’t start wars, but soldiers have to fight them. Soldiers don’t choose to fight a war out of hate, but for the love of their country and friends.
Some of my friends and people I work with are veterans from recent military service. Some have seen action. They don’t talk about the fighting either.
I have learned that veterans have had to fight and live through horror so we could have freedom and peace. Some gave up their lives. Some lost their health, sight or a limb. Most all had many sleepless nights. The memories are often horrible and fade slowly if at all. Their silence is out of compassion for us.
Veterans have learned from their sacrifice to relish our freedom and peace. Their gratitude for our country is overwhelming. I have learned to listen to a Veteran. What they say can be painful for them to say. What they have learned has been learned at a great price.
Nov. 11, 2002.