Veterans Day Blues

Floris56 By Floris56, 29th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3-mdn-8p/
Posted in Wikinut>Family>Community

Having been in the army does not always make one feel like a veteran. The sentiments evoked by the word veteran do not seem to apply when all one did was serve in a peace time army.

Finishing school

Although my father, all seven of my seven brothers, and I all have served in some branch of the military I have difficulty thinking of myself as a veteran even though I still qualify for Veteran’s Administration (VA) benefits.

We are not, as such a military family. The reason that all of my brothers and I went into the military was primarily financial in nature. The high school diploma was the terminal degree for all of my brothers. But high school, except for the general education it provided and some shop classes that taught us about carpentry, hardly prepared us for future competitive employment in a place where there was little employment available. The military was our finishing school. It was expected that we would go into the army to “make a man out of you”. Only one of us ever learned a trade in the military that would help us make a living as a civilian. Only one of us served more than four years. Some of us served during war time and suffered grievous wounds in combat.

Real heroes and me

I was in the U. S. Army medical Corp just as Vietnam was heating up, but I was stationed in Germany. I never fought in a war. The early 60’s were tense times during the Cuban missile crisis and the erection of a wall separating East and West Berlin. But no blood was shed by American soldiers. So my tour of duty was made up of barracks life interrupted on a regular basis by stints of temporary duty (TDY) in other locations in Europe.

For me to claim that I served my country seems a little thin considering what other young men sacrificed in their military duty. One of my brothers was in Korea fewer than two months after that bloody war began. His unit, the 34th Infantry Regiment, was so depleted (with only 184 men remaining of its original 2000 men) that it was deactivated two weeks after he joined it and he was assigned to the 19th Infantry Regiment. He was wounded twice, the second time badly enough to send him back home to Walter Reed hospital for months of recuperation.

But his physical wounds did not compare to the mental wounds that so devastated the rest of his and his family’s lives.

Giving credit where it is due

So when, during church services that my wife and I attended on one Veteran’s day, the pastor asked all the veterans in the church to assemble at the back of the church and walk in a procession to the front, I sat, looking around to see who stood up. I was a stranger to the parish. It did not occur to me that I was a veteran. My wife finally nudged me and told me to go join them. I could not, in good conscience, rise from my seat.

Both my brother and my father (who was severely wounded in WWI) lived foreshortened lives because of their service to their country. I “became a man” and got some GI Bill money for college after my service. Some of the men who walked to the rear of that church suffered great hardship during and after their service to their country. Some had buddies whose sacrifice was a life not lived. I would be asking people to compare me with these men who knew fear and suffering that I could not even imagine and who lost so much.

We cannot know how we would respond to the horrible conditions of combat. We are all a mixture of coward and hero and the line between them is really thin

A First Sargent in my basic training unit once said to us, “I want to make you the man who, when your buddy looks over at your foxhole during combat, he’s looking to see if you are all right, not to see if you’re still there.” I still tend to subconsciously measure the character of a person by asking myself how comfortable I would be in a foxhole with them.

I have never had to experience what real veterans lived through and out of gratitude for that I defer to them any Veteran’s Day honor that tradition might bestow upon me for having served my country in the barracks.

Tags

Community, Family, Growing Up, Maturing, Military, Relationships, Siblings, Veteran

Meet the author

author avatar Floris56
I am a retired science librarian and data archivist. I usually write science articles or fiction.
I can also be found on: http://expertscolumn.com/




I also write for http//:expertscoulmn.com

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Comments

author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
29th Oct 2015 (#)

Thank you for sharing your article. I found it very interesting.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
29th Oct 2015 (#)

Indeed my friend you are a true hero as well my salute to you an all the Vets out there

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author avatar Floris56
30th Oct 2015 (#)

Thank you very much for your comments.

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