Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans' Day 2010 - Honor our Veterans

Today is Veterans' Day; the day we set aside to remember and honor our nation's veterans.  We sometimes forget that the freedoms we have in this country are due to the efforts of a great many people, past and present, who sacrificed to help us retain these freedoms.  And they have sometimes sacrificed to bring freedom to other nations as well.

Whether or not you support the conflicts we are engaged in currently, our military members are serving their country and following the orders that are part of that service.  We must honor that when we meet them.

Like many others, I have veterans in my family.  My dad served on the USS Nelson (a Gleaves-class destroyer) in WWII.  The Nelson was torpedoed in half  in the Atlantic Ocean by a German E-boat near Normandy.  My dad had just walked from the stern to the other end of the ship when it happened -- had he not done that -- well, 24 died and 9 were wounded.  They managed to do enough repairs to get themselves to Ireland for more watertight repairs, then towed to Gibraltar to lead a convey of "sick ships" back to Boston.  In Boston they replaced the stern that had been lost in the ocean and the Neslon was returned to duty.  I believe my Dad had completed his duty by then because the Nelson went on to serve in the Pacific but I don't believe my dad served there -- at least, he never talked about it. In fact, he never talked much about WWII; it was a hard time for both those in service and their families left home to cope.

Today, it's really not much different.  Some of the things our servicemen and servicewomen see, hear, and do change them considerably.  Sometimes they cannot cope with the "real" world after being in the surreal world of fighting, killing, living under constant threat of losing life or limb. 

Some of my dad's story I learned from him, and some I read in the book, Tin Cans and Other Ships, which gave a detailed account of a great many ships from World War II.  And there are a great many links to sites today that have a good deal of information. 
My dad wasn't the only family member serving in WWII.  My Aunt Winnie and Uncle Bob met when Bob was in the hospital recovering from injuries.  She was an Army Nurse and he was an Air Force pilot.   He served in the Atlantic and later was stationed in Japan as part of the recovery effort after we bombed Hiroshima.  My uncle Bill served but I forget in which branch.  I'll have to ask my brother, Bill, and edit this later.  That brother served at least two tours in Vietnam.

My nephew Dan is currently serving in the Navy, like my dad.  He spent more than a year off the coast of Japan and later served in Afghanistan.  Yes, I know there isn't much ocean in Afghanistan but the Navy does a lot of the supply management for the Army, so they sometimes get land duty.  Another Nephew, Bill, served in Afghanistan.  Gee, can you see that Bill is a common name in my family?  At holidays we'd usually have at least 6 Bills in the house for dinner; it could get confusing!   (And my dad's name was Bill also!)...

I have some friends who've served in the Reserves (hi Dawn!) and some in regular military service even though they saw no conflict.  But they were ready to be called.

Sometimes you don't even know that the person you're with is a veteran.  I had a client earlier this week whom I discovered is a Vietnam Veteran.  As he put it, he "served too long there."  Today, he is just coming out of having been homeless, but has no job, no money, and needs food stamps.  His story is all too common.

As we honor our veterans today, in whatever manner suits us best, let us also remember those who are living in pain or poverty -- or both.  When we vote, when we talk with politicians, when we make decisions about giving or donating, keep them in mind and remember that the person on the street you don't even know could be a veteran.  Treat them well.

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