Friday, November 11, 2016

Celebrating Veteran's Day

11/11 started as the day to mark the end of the Great War. If only it had indeed been the last war, the war to end all wars.  It wasn't though. And men and women have answered their country's call in the ensuing years.

Here's to all our vets: those with four legs and two legs

to those who are learning to fly

and those who are learning to walk (again)

Thank you.


CynthiaMc said...

Thank you, Janet. One of my heroes is my big brother Al who did two tours in Air Rescue in Vietnam. It's insane the things he went through, yet as often as possible he took time to write his little sister (me) and tell me funny stories about the watch monkey they had in camp (who saved their lives at least once - he didn't tell me that part until many years later). I was in 3rd grade. My mom would cry every time she or I got a letter because she knew at that moment he was still alive.

I'm grateful for my brother-in-law's brother-in-law, a young Marine on Saipan during WWII. He shakes his head at the kids older than he was then who are too distraught to go to class. One of my nephews asked him about that. "We didn't have time," he said. "We had a job to do." He was 99 on his birthday and still gets down on the floor and plays with our newest baby in the family.

I'm grateful for this day. They deserve it. And I'm grateful for those who stand watch now so the rest of us can breathe.

Amy Johnson said...

Beautiful comment, Cynthia. I'm grateful too.

Amy Johnson said...

Thank you, Janet. Lovely pictures and comments.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

God bless them all, no matter how many legs they walk on and especially the ones with none. In the darkness of war, much is saved and much is lost.
Like I said, God bless them all.

french sojourn said...

I just returned from my little village's ceremony honoring their fallen as well. I guess out of the entire country there were only 3 small villages that didn't lose anyone in the first world war. It was nice to be there representing their American Allies.

My family has been in most of the wars for the U.S., my brother also did a couple tours in Vietnam, so nice to think of him today, I'll call him later tonight.

Have a nice weekend all, cheers from Saint Jean de Duras, a few thousand miles away, and twenty five years a good way.

God bless our fallen, wounded, stressed and those alive to share it.

Cheers Hank.

Unknown said...

We sat with my uncle, in his late seventies and close to death from Alzheimer's, watching old family movies. He appeared on the screen, fifty-five years younger. "Look Uncle Dennis, that's when you were a Marine!" He fixed steely eyes on me, "I'm still a Marine!"

Thanks seems so inadequate for the sacrifice and service of our military and their families. But I do feel grateful, and thank them.

Theresa said...

"We had a job to do." That's pretty much how my dad summed up his time in the Korean War.

I'll be thinking of all veterans today.

Donnaeve said...

When I was eight, my Aunt Isabel and Mom used to pack care packages for my Uncle Bobby who was serving in Viet Nam. Cardboard boxes filled with packets of Kool-Aid, used to camouflage the horrible tasting water over there, cookies, potato chips, toothpaste, soap, and other necessary items that were hard to come by, but most importantly, our letters.

Once, a box came back. It looked like it had traveled a long and dusty road, dented, the edges roughened to a softness from so many hands, and for it to only be returned, unopened upset my aunt. She opened it and we were surprised to find sand in it, along with everything that had been packed a month before.

My Uncle Bobby came home after he was wounded, and eventually received the Purple Heart. My aunts and uncles on my mother's side all served in WWII.

Today, by writing a little bit here about them, I honor them, as well as all the others who have served.

For me, there is something especially poignant about our four legged vets. Just like their ability to love unconditionally, so is their desire to simply do what is asked of them, even when the asking puts them into situations foreign and what likely goes against their instincts, and this is only because they trust their two legged partners beyond measure.

RachelErin said...

Two of my good friends, one a law student like my husband, and his wife, both are Marines and did one or two tours in Iraq before they had kids.
When I think of their beautiful family, and the life ahead of them that they risked, I feel both grateful and cowardly. I've never offered to do a job with so much a stake.

To anyone writing characters with PTSD, a lot fictional descriptions are highly inaccurate (e.g. only nightmares, doesn't actually effect day-to-day). I would beg you all to immerse yourselves in the stories of many people who have PTSD as you build your fictional people. (A little neuroscience never hurt, either) The stories we tell shape our understanding. And I think there is a greater divide between those who serve and those who don't these days - we could all use a little more understanding.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

When my grandfather, Captain Jack, passed away, I was only nine years old. He flew paratroopers in WW II in Africa. My mother did not meet her father until she was three years old because he was off saving the world from monstrous ideologies that would destroy us all.

My memories of Captain Jack are faint now, building model planes with him and he knowing everything about them. He loved to fly. He sometimes spoke of his younger brother, Bubba and how they tried to build their own planes in the blue grass fields of Kentucky during the Depression and how proud they had been when the military made it possible for them both to fly.

I always wanted to meet my great Uncle Bubba. My mother explained that Bubba never came home from the war. It was a long while before I understood that meant my grandfather’s baby brother had made the ultimate sacrifice, his plane shot down in Italy.

It had been Africa for Captain Jack. My mother told me long after his death that she had lost her father before he ever came home from the war.

On a winter’s day, Captain Jack had flown a group of paratroopers to their drop site and come back to refuel his plane to find that the Nazis had taken the field. He was out of fuel. He had to land. He knew the Nazis would not destroy the plane – they were low on resources – they needed the plane. So he bunkered himself in the cockpit with his weapons and waited for them to board to try and root him out. The first he killed, he shot at close range, a boy that could not have been much older than seventeen, looking in eyes that would haunt him until his dying day. Over and over again he shot until every Nazi on that field had fallen and an ally force of British and American soldiers came to his aid. He had been shot numerous times but recovered from his injuries. At least the physical ones.

He was awarded the Flying Cross for his heroism but it gave him no pleasure, no solace. He returned to his wife and child and lived in the bottle until that morning when at last the Lord released him and brought him home.

So Christmas came that year and we stayed with my grandmother in her old haunted house. It had all sorts of nicks and crannies. She had moved her room from the master she shared with my grandfather because she couldn’t stand to be there anymore now that he was gone. I was exploring that abandoned room and found a hidden closet with my grandfather’s old uniform hanging up wrapped in plastic.

I don’t know what possessed me but I took the uniform down, unwrapped it and in his pocket, I found three papers – a hand-written prayer to St. Peter that my grandfather had written for his men who had fallen, a letter from a Private Ralph something or other to his fianc√© should he have died (he didn’t, at least not in the war), and copy of a poem. Lord Alfred Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade. torn from some text book or other.

Now, the world once more is at war (regardless of what politically correct nonsense we call it) with an ideology that seeks to destroy everything right and decent on the planet.

We owe so much to these men and women, words cannot express my gratitude. Again, they did not make the war or want it. They simply defend those who won’t or can’t defend themselves. There are even some here at the Reef who are veterans themselves or have children that are veterans, some even with active service men and women. Thank you.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

-Excerpt from The Charge of the Light Brigade
- Alfred Lord Tennyson

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Thank you, Janet. And thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories. Kathy Joyce: Your Uncle Dennis saying, "I'm still a Marine," brought tears to my eyes.
Donna: I agree with what you said about our four-legged vets. And I'm glad your Uncle Bobby came home.

Susan said...

Thank you Janet, thank you to those who served and fought and those who are fighting still, and thank you to everyone here for sharing your stories in honor of your family and friends. I have one of my grandfather, who survived Pearl Harbor via miracle, but I'll have to share it later.

Claire Bobrow said...

I'm grateful to my father, Earle, who served on active duty as a surgeon in the Army Medical Corps just after the end of WW II. Part of his medical school training was done through the Navy V 12 program.

I'm also grateful to my father-in-law, Mort, who served with the OSS. Mort was sent to the University of Chicago to learn Chinese, and in the latter part of WW II went on a mission to China - Operation Spaniel. Mort and his fellow soldiers parachuted in and landed roughly 20 miles away from their intended drop spot. Instead of making contact with the Communists, as intended, they were captured by Nationalist Chinese. Mort spent the remainder of the war as a POW, living in a cave. He was treated humanely by his captors, served eggplant every single day (he still hates it), and before he came home in a prisoner exchange, was presented with a pair of beautiful silk pajamas made for him by his captors out of his parachute.

I've seen those pajamas, and Mort's log book from the mission, and they are something.

Thank you to all of our veterans and to those still serving, and thank you, Janet, for this post.

Brigid said...

In case anyone is feeling moved to donate, here are 3 reputable charities:

The USO - wide range of services keeping service members connected to family

Get Headstrong - mental health services

Fisher House Foundation - provides housing for families when a veteran is receiving medical treatment

RosannaM said...

Thank you to all our veterans who served our country so bravely.

I never met my mother's father. He served in WWII and a few short years after returning got cancer and died. The family believes it was due to something he was exposed to. He left behind his wife and 6 children ranging in age from 3-16. I cannot imagine how my Grandmother coped, but she was an amazingly sweet and gentle strong woman.

And thank you to my husband, who served twenty years in the USAF. We were extremely fortunate for those years to land during a time of peace, but he was prepared to go wherever and whenever if he was called.

God bless those still in harm's way.

Beth Carpenter said...

Sending heartfelt gratitude to all the veterans. My father was in WWII, and I give special thanks to to all those who didn't return home, or came home greviously injured.

What a touching picture, Janet.

More dog heroes.

Elissa M said...

Not all veterans are two or four legged. My brother was Navy EOD with much of his time spent in the marine mammal program. His dolphin was named Katrina (this was well before the hurricane). He has lots of amusing stories about his flippered friends. Note: Bottlenose dolphins are very good at killing sharks--even without Navy training. (Um...perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned that.)

I want to add that service does not always mean war. Service members (and their families) face hardships and sacrifices off the battlefield as well. I didn't see my dad for three years in a row, and only one of those he spent in Vietnam. Of course, all military families are gypsies. I went to nine different grade schools (plus two junior highs). My husband left a week after our wedding and I couldn't join him for another six months. I don't want to talk about how many families in his various units were on food stamps.

Also, don't forget there are five armed services, not four, and all of them have served in battle. Semper Paratus, Coasties.

french sojourn said...

My dad was in the Merchant Marines, Chief Engineer...down in the engine room. He had two ships torpedoed out from underneath him. After the war, he and a friend sailed this 38 foot POS across the Atlantic. They arrived in Spain, wintered in Paris, he met my mom, she went back to the states. He sailed back in a hurry, alone. (3 world records at that time, fastest solo crossing, oldest boat, youngest skipper) They got married, seven children later, full life. Now on leave above.

Reading the stories above made me think of him and their generation.


Colin Smith said...

My Dad served in the British army, at first in signals, then in catering. My Mum would always joke that when my Dad took a turn to cook a meal for the family, he would forget he was only feeding five. :)

Dad didn't tell many stories from his military experience. By my reckoning he must have joined not long after school, perhaps in the early '50s. So most of his deployments were not particularly life-threatening--at least if they were, he never mentioned it. Except for one.

He was stationed in Aden, Yemen, sometime in the late 1960s. I know he was there when my older brother was born in Ireland in 1967. While explaining to me why he found it hard to believe in God, my Dad told of how one day while in Aden, he witnessed a young boy walk out into the middle of the street and blow himself up.

As I later discovered, Aden had been in British hands since the early 1800s, and during the 1960s, increased unrest from the local Arab population made it increasingly difficult for the British to stay. 1967 was the year of most intense violence against the British. Riots, and attacks on both sides, escalated to the point where in November, the Brits evacuated. A few years later, Yemen was given independence.

Thinking about it now, my Mum must have been aware of the danger Dad was in. And how relieved she must have been that he was safely evacuated. A few years later, he was stationed in Germany, and that's where I was born, in British Military Hospital.

I add my thanks to those of you who serve, and your family members who put themselves in harm's way to keep harm from the rest of us.

Lennon Faris said...

Elissa I come from a military family and have never heard of trained military dolphins. What an interesting concept.

Thanks, Janet, for this tribute, and everyone for their stories.

Wishing everyone a peace-filled day!

Karen McCoy said...

I'm loving everyone's stories! The veterans I will be honoring today are my husband's Uncle Larry (who passed away last year) and my friend Richard.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

My Dad was the oldest of 10 children in a farming family, with 5 brothers. He was the only one who went into service. He served in Korea, in the USAF, a radio operator. Just this week, Mom brought out his memorabilia tin while he was napping. I found out he was a Cpl. He'd been trained in Texas and served in Neenah Bay, Washington before going overseas to Korea and Japan, and he spent a few months in training in England and in Germany. And Mom's 3 older brothers served in WWII.

No one else in the family served, except now two of my cousins' have sons-one is in the medical field with the National Guard and the other joined the Marines after he graduated high school.

Dena Pawling said...

I spoke with my Navy son yesterday and have been texting him today. He's E5 which is the Navy equivalent of sergeant. He pulled desk duty today, which he hates so he's using the time "productively" by watching Trump's Twitter feed.

My grandfather had a Purple Heart but he never talked about it or his time in the war (WWII).

Thank a veteran today. They're the reason we can vote. And protest.

Elissa M said...

Lennon, The dolphins are used to detect underwater mines (and other ordnance) and swimmers. In the first Gulf War, my brother and his team used hand-held sonar devices to detect mines along the Iraq coast. It took them two weeks to clear a narrow path that could have been used for a landing force from the open ocean to the beach. He told me dolphins could have located all the mines in two hours.

The mammals are not attack animals, but are much more like bomb sniffing dogs. They also can find swimmers and divers in unauthorized areas and alert their handlers. They are extremely well cared for and really love to go out on missions with their handlers. Since a dolphin can't be leashed, they're free to swim away, but they don't.

There's a lot of misinformation about the Navy's marine mammal program spread around by people with an agenda. Suffice it to say, the marine mammals are much like military working dogs, except they aren't ever exposed to combat and they're in more danger from natural marine predators than anything they do in their jobs.

Susan said...

I'm loving the fact that everyone is sharing their stories--what an honor to read about and get to know your loved ones.

I think I've shared this before, but my grandfather was a tech sergeant in the army at Pearl Harbor during WWII. He worked in ordinance--bomb transfer and disposal. Growing up, he told us that he used to actually sleep on the bombs. On his birthday, he received permission to attend church on the other side of the island. It was December 7.

When he was in hospice about ten years ago, my brother and I went to visit him. He was floating in and out of consciousness--at times he didn't know where he was or who we were. Every so often, he would shout out, "stand down, soldier!" It was haunting to hear, knowing what he must have been reliving. When we were leaving, I kissed his cheek and told him I loved him. His mind seemed to clear for just a moment. "I love you, too," he said. They were words I've heard a thousand times before from him, but this was a moment I'd never forget.

Today, every day, I think of him.

Janice Grinyer said...

Perfect post for today - Thanks JR