|Thanks VeteransPage 2 of 2 (1, 2)|
|Just want to add my thanks to the list of those thanking Veterans. And of course a thanks to the soldiers currently serving in the armed forces. My utmost respect and appreciation goes out to those fine men and women.|
Posted: 1/17/2007 8:31:42 PM
The Story He’ll Never Know© …
In conducting research on articles I am in the process of writing about World War II and its’ veterans, that research is taking me to Veterans hospitals within the several states that are closest to my home town.
One of the things I always do, is to check on the listings of current “in” and “out” patient registrations when I visit each hospital. I look up the patient and obtain a first person comment, if the veteran in question is willing to speak with me, and many aren’t. The most common reason for declining my request is that these veterans do not want to revisit their memories and what they went through.
On my latest trip, I had instantly recognized the name on the registration listing of a veteran: a Marine Corps sergeant. I went out to my car to retrieve my tape recorder and a few other articles I wanted with me on this particular interview, and returned to the hospital. I went to the third floor to find the room assigned to the veteran sergeant.
On the third floor, I quickly found the nurses station, and made the inquiry which resulted in directions to this specific veterans room, accompanied by the additional information from the attendant, that the veteran may not yet have been returned from his weekly examination. I thank the aide, and followed her indicated directions.
I found the room easily enough, but when I went in, the room was, indeed, vacant of its’ patient. After waiting a few moments, I went to the third floor waiting room and found a comfortable chair, and sat down to await the return of the sergeant.
There were stacks of magazines, newspapers and periodicals lying on the many tables in the waiting room, and I could have picked one up to browse, but instead I found myself reading the citation of this specific Marine Sergeant that my father had bequeathed to me many years ago.
This sergeant, now nearing 80 years old, had been award six combat medals for his actions in the war – I wanted to make sure I had every detail of his heroic efforts on that fateful day firmly embedded in my mind before I went to speak to him.
I read it, then re-read it, although I nearly had it memorized from the countless times I had read it in the past. The information was in the form of inked words on a white sheet of paper adorned with Marine Corps emblem and other official stamps and the like. I comprehended the words as I read, and understood the actions the sergeant performed that day, and certainly the justifications for the awarding of the highest honor and decoration this country can bestow on a man or woman for valor.
But the words on the paper, as my father had explained to me from memory, could never convey the raw horror of an active battlefield.
From deep within my memory, recollections of my fathers’ words of that horrific conflict drifted into my conscientiousness. His words of the odors of seared skin; the acrid sting of cordite in one’s eyes and nostrils; his description of the feel of the black coarsely ground rock-like crushed lava; the unnerving sounds of screams and agony of the dying and maimed; the shattering explosions leaving some temporarily deaf, and others permanently so; the whizzing sounds of airborne bullets coming so close; the high pitched whine of ricochets; the nearly incessant rapid “pops” of automatic weapons; the sight of confusing smoke of every color and hue all twisting and rising to mix into nearly unbreatheable air; the lack of a sky. But he had said those things were all there – anywhere – everywhere – all the time, constant and unceasing. It was the insane chaos of war in open battle.
It was February 18, 1945, and this boy, this Marine, later to attain the rank of sergeant, was a PFC … and he was one year out of high school …18 years old. This day, this young man, this boy, would be shot three times, nearly lose a leg and the vision of his left eye to a mortar shell explosion, and personally pull five other wounded men to safety who were unconscious or nearly so, before he finally had to retire, collapsing from loss of blood and in shock, and …
This was the Marine Sergeant I was about to speak to …
A muffled noise caused me to glance up from my reading and from where I was seated, I saw that the sergeant’s bed was being wheeled into his room by an orderly and a nurse. I gathered my belongings and walked to the entryway door to his room.
Over the shoulder of the nurse, I could see a frail man, dressed in a patterned white and blue hospital gown. I could see from the doorway he was nearly bald with wisps of white mussed hair over one ear. The nurse was busy arranging an IV tube, and the orderly was tucking the sheets and blanket around the sergeant. I could see evidence of old, severe scarring around the sergeant’s left eye.
I stood patiently waiting for the medical attendants to finish their work, before I proceeded into the room, and readied my small hand-held recorder for what I hoped would be the interview I wanted so very much to obtain.
The medical personnel finished their work, and turned and headed toward the doorway where I stood. I moved slightly to my right to allow them to pass.
As she approached me, the nurse noticed my tape recorder, and she paused, and spoke to me.
“Are you a relative, sir?”, she asked.
“Ah … no, I’m not. I just wanted to get a statement from the sergeant for an article I’m writing”, I replied.
The nurse, about 45 or so I judged, returned a soft knowing smile.
“I’m afraid you won’t get much of an interview”, she said quietly, and she rested her hand on my arm as she spoke.
“Oh? Is he sedated?”, I asked, trying to conceal the disappointment I felt.
“No, he’s not sedated. The sergeant is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s, and, he no longer even knows his own name or where he is”, she replied with quiet reverence.
It took me a second or two to fully comprehend her words. As they sank into my mind, I could feel the hatred of the disease she had named, well up in me. I had not entertained the thought that the sergeant might not be coherent, and the quiet shock of the news was crippling to me.
I mumbled some words of thanks to the nurse, and she quietly left the room.
I stood there in the doorway looking at the frail man lying in the white hospital bed in front of me. Quiet, serene and tranquil. His face was peaceful and unmoving, I assumed he was sleeping as I watched his chest slowly rise and fall with each breath he took. I silently thanked him, and said a prayer on his behalf, that I know was heard.
I turned and left the room, with the involuntary tears beginning to trace down my cheeks, as I made my way to the elevator.
I had wanted to speak to this magnificent man and shake his hand, to convey to him my gratitude and express my deep appreciation for his sacrifices that day on a black lava sand beach. His actions allowed me to be alive.
One of the men the sergeant saved that day would become my father.
He will never know that fact …
But you do.
For All the Veterans Who Gave So Much – Thank You
Posted: 1/26/2007 8:11:26 PM
|The next time you see an obituary of any vet in the paper, stop, give a moment of silence & say "thank-you". |
Men & women who served and survived wars still gave their lives for us. Things like shell shock have long lasting and sometimes lifetime effects, not to mention those who witnessed horrors that a no one should have to see.
Here is to all those who served.
Posted: 11/3/2007 5:28:01 PM
|Although we shouldn't save expressing our gratitude to the men & women who serve our country (and honouring those who have fallen in service) solely for the month of November or Remembrance Day... resurrecting this particular thread seems rather appropriate right now.|
Posted: 11/5/2007 6:10:03 AM
|Thank you, Wer... for capturing so much of my personal experience... but especially for creating a safe place in these forums to express my own feelings without the bashing jingoism, blind rhetoric, and intolerance for diversity of thought (ironically, one of the alleged freedoms Canadians have fought for) that all too often often accompanies fervent patriotism. |
I too have family members who have served this country... who've witnessed horrors so great they cannot speak of them... and returned with the same message about both the personal and collective social costs of going to war. To honour that, I choose to wear a peace symbol on my coat during the month of November instead of a poppy.
"If you're not with us, you must be against us" doesn't work for me when it comes to the subject of war. Being anti-war doesn't mean I take our hard-won freedoms and the toll others have paid for them lightly... it just means that I believe (as Buddha taught) that there is a middle way... one that leads to peace instead of conflict... and not just between nations, but within ourselves as well.
Peace to all, indeed.