Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Special Veteran

Many years ago, when we were a lot younger and my spouse was serving in the military, we befriended a younger single man.  At the time we were stationed in Kansas.  This young man had grown up in Missouri.  One day he invited us to his parents' home in rural Missouri.

I got the feeling this invitation was quite a leap of faith for him.  That
he didn't do this kind of thing very often.    We accepted the invitation and spent a weekend with his family.

His father was a Korean War veteran.  It was a Saturday night and,we were warned, the father was going to overindulge in alcohol.  And so he did.


It was obvious that this inebriated older man was reliving his experience in war.  He was in the middle of a battle.  He shouted out commands.  He fought demons only he could see.  Finally, he was carried to bed.

Our friend's mother explained this happened every weekend.  Long ago, the father was young and in battle.  His commanding officer was killed.  The Dad received a battlefield promotion and he was suddenly in charge.   It did something to him, hurt him in a way he was never able to recover from.  Every Saturday night he would seek solace in the bottle. Although he relived the battle and was obviously suffering, in the morning he would remember nothing.

I have never been in war.  I know people who have.  I know people who were civilian casualties of war, too.  But this Korean War veteran has stuck in my mind over many years.  We never received another invitation.  We drifted apart when our friend, sadly, became more interested in drugs than in our friendship.  In his own way he fought demons too.

War claims many victims and I wish we treated our veterans with the respect they deserve.  Not just lip service.

I wish I could tell our friend today we were not ashamed of what we saw.  I wasn't mature enough then to understand.  Now maybe (maybe) I am.  And, if his Dad is still alive, I hope that he has found peace at last.

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