I will remember them, not just on Veterans Day but every day. There are millions and millions of them who came home over the last one hundred and ten years; not in body bags, but still with the scars of war.
They are veterans and they are heroes just as much as those who died.
I think mostly of the veterans of the last 110 years for they are part of my story.
My grandfather was in the trenches of WWI, the war to end all wars. He and his compatriots were welcomed home with parades. Looking back I think the war rumbled on in him. He seemed old before his time to me; sometimes silent, brooding and seeing things I could not understand. Soldiers back then, though, were to be tough and get over it. You were weak if you didn’t.
My dad served in the Merchant Marines and the Canadian Air Force. His troop transport ship was sunk in WWII leave him floating for days on the equator. He had nightmares for years. Like his dad, my dad and his shipmates came home to acclaim. Like his dad, real men did show their emotional scars.
My uncle was dropped behind the lines to help the resistance in Europe during WWII. His wife was a WAC in London, dodging bombs and living on shortened rations. Their service was honored by their country but their experiences shaped their lives and the lives of their children.
Family friends fought in Korea and served in the Cold War in Europe, all good wars with honor bestowed on them.
My family and friends who went to Vietnam make a longer list. My first husband Bruce and my husband Ray, my friends Steve, Danny, Jim, April, Tom and scores more went “over there.”
Most Vietnam veterans did not come home to parades and their country did not always seem like home. Many carried the scars of wars even if they were not visible ones. It would be decades before their PTSD was acknowledged and before these old soldiers got a long-awaited welcome home.
The last few decades my friends who serve are younger and their deployments span from Iraq to Afghanistan, South America to Bosnia. They are welcomed home with parades and honor for while. We understand better the effects of PTSD. In times of political heat, there are outcries for better medical care for vets.
Most of my relatives who served in WWII have now died. My friends and relatives who served in Nam are as old now as the WWII vets looked to me as a young child. One day the troops who came home from Iraq, Syria, Bosnia, Afghanistan will be 60 and 70.
No one intends to be thoughtless, but as the years pass all of their wars and military actions and all of their service will fade to a piece of history. The parades will have fewer and fewer veterans from the old wars. The fervor to support and honor them will wane as the years pass and new school children are born in the years after the wars happened.
There was a poem my husband Ray saw scratched into a latrine wall in Nam.
“In times of war and not before,
God and the soldier we adore.
But in times of peace and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier slighted.”
Ray has never slighted the veterans, dedicating his personal life and professional career to help those impacted with PTSD to live better lives. I respect him and other VVA members.
I too will never slight, minimize or forget the millions of veterans. I have seen the life-long cost of being a veteran, a cost that no parade or monetary compensation can fully offset for the veteran or their families.
Gen. Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) said it perfectly
On Veterans Day, put out your flags, cheer the marchers at parades, and go to tributes.
But when you wake up the next day, Nov. 12, remember that it’s still Veterans Day
for our veterans — and it will be every day of their lives.
It deserves to be repeated . . . Every day is veterans day for veterans and their families and it will be for the rest of their lives in varying degrees.
Ray shared this song with me and I want to share it with you. I have played the video ten times this week touched by the message and the wonderful voice of John McDermott.
I share it in honor of all the aging veterans from all the wars.
You are in our hearts and memories now and will be in the future when the parades are done and Nov 11 is over.
(c)shaun brink 2015
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