Veteran’s Day makes me think of my father. To say he fought in a war doesn’t really describe his experience. He served his country proudly, and in doing so, endured horrors that visited him from time to time for the rest of his life.
I remember asking him about his time in the service. One story that I’ll never forget was about his time in the Corps of Engineers when he was responsible for making sure his unit had the ammunition they needed to fight. More than once, he had to collect munitions from the dead – men he served with and called friends, so he could supply the ones still fighting.
He stepped over bodies on ground soaked in blood. He was in hostile territory recovering arms and ammo.
I could see the pain in his eyes as he told me this story. In reliving that moment, he gave me a unique insight into war that had never occurred to me before. I’d always thought of war in general terms: people fight, people die, it’s all terrible. But this was specific. His friends fought. His friends died, and it was more than terrible. It was something no one should have to experience. He was in the middle of it, and although he was happy to survive, part of him died that day and never returned when they shipped him home.
He was just a kid of 18 or 20. So very young, but not too young to die.
We see men in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, and recognize them as veterans. But that title isn’t limited to old men. Young men and women continue to come home destroyed by things they’ve seen in conflict. They all bear scars. We see the physical ones. Some of those scars are in place of limbs. Some are completely debilitating. We don’t see the mental ones. The soul-crushing ones. The ones tattooed inside their eyelids that visit them when they try to sleep.
We need to turn the spotlight on the real heroes. Not the people in Hollywood. Not the men on the gridiron. Those people get paid to do what they love. The true heroes made a sacrifice, and often many sacrifices, to keep our country free.
From the depths of my heart, thank you to all who served.