My apology to veterans


I have led what many would consider a “normal” life.  I went to high school, married shortly afterwards while a college student, eventually embarked on a rewarding career as a social worker, and added 5 children to our family.  We live in a three-bedroom ranch style home, and I drive a ten-year-old car that was purchased used. Considered to be middle class, we enjoy occasional trips to a tiny house we own in New Hampshire, (purchased thirty years ago by my dad.) Hubby has a large family, so we are never at a loss for where to celebrate the holidays, and my Facebook is loaded with interesting and personalized posts from a wide variety of friends and family.

Cleanliness and homemaking are not part of my attributes. I figure my whirlwind mind equates to a whirlwind house, so I have accepted that fact.  Fortunately, a gentleman who resides in our basement apartment sneaks upstairs while I am at work so he can clean the house, do the dishes, and do the laundry.  It is like having a fictional cleaning elf, but he is not fictional, he is a disabled vet who had been homeless.  My son, Steven, who has always been kind to animals, children, and those with disabilities, befriended him and offered to share his basement bedroom with him, and he has been living with us since then, five, maybe six years.  Nice guy, keeps to himself, likes to play video games, keeps the home spotless which makes me smile every time I walk in the front door from work.

I have known other veterans, of course.  My dad served in World War II, and, by my mother’s observations, the way he was when he returned was not the way he was when he went.  They used to love dancing and playing ping pong, interests which disappeared as the result of his war time service.  Instead of being the social life of the party, my dad because withdrawn, often uncommunicative, and paranoid. My mom explained that he had “shell shock”.  Dad had wanderlust, and we traveled cross country for most of the year, living in a Volkswagen van. As a child, I did not understand his errant behavior, and only knew that he was cranky and nothing I did ever seemed good enough.   My mother, always trying to keep the peace, cautioned me not to bother him, so I did not. In retrospect, my relationship with my father is the one thing I will always regret.  As a child, and even as an adult, I could have been much more loving and accepting.  It never occurred to me until now that my father was a disabled vet, although never diagnosed as such.

My newfound appreciation for veterans has come after watching the Veteran’s Day realistic mini-series marathon of Band of Brothers, the mini-series developed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.  Being World War II “illiterate”, this was the first time the realities of war became more than a movie for me.  The futility, time and time again, of soldiers running with rifles into the enemy lines, only to be shot at, wounded and killed.  Yet they kept trying, even as their ranks diminished. It is ironic how much it looked like a video game, soldiers on both sides of the trenches, shooting, scoring, dying. The carnage and grotesquely injured lay all around them, a common side effect of war.

During combat, the medics tried to attend to the wounded, often with no morphine or bandages, just using their hands to block the flow of blood that was sure to keep flowing.  The death of each soldier was grieved by all, another link in the chain of defense mercilessly clipped away. Soldiers would go for days hunkered down in fox holes without food and would go back behind enemy lines to retrieve the bodies of fallen comrades. They were brothers, intrinsically entwined in each other’s lives, innately looking out for each other no matter what the cost.

The soldiers had joined the service and were willing to sacrifice their own lives for the greater good. They had answered the call of their country, and unselfishly gave of themselves…gave their lives, their health, their relationships and in many cases, their sanity.  I am embarrassed to say that I have been negligent in not fully learning about and appreciating the amazing sacrifices of our veterans. Thank you to everyone who has served or are serving this country. Your unselfish service to our country is greatly appreciated.


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