Saturday, November 11, 2017

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day

The 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, we pause to commemorate (what we call in the United States) Veterans Day.  My father was a World War II veteran (non combat) as was my father in law, but many others have paid the ultimate price to defend their countries.

Sometimes, that price isn't death, but something the veteran lives with for the rest of his/her life.

Monuments are nice, but they don't tell the whole story of the suffering of those men and women.

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.  It's improving over the years but we have a long way to go.  It isn't just about free breakfasts and discounts on mattress sales.

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.  My friend's father passed away in 2015. I hope that he has found peace at last.

10 comments:

  1. A very poignant post - I have the utmost respect for those who serve our country in this way.

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    1. I do, also. In a way, I owe them my very existence.

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  2. Most of us will never know the agony of the battlefield, physically, mentally and spiritually. We can only feel gratitude for those who take our places there.
    Thank you.

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    1. I am forever grateful to them. I can't even begin to imagine.

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  3. Sad story. I hope he eventually worked through that trauma.

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  4. Once again I would like to Thank those who serve in the arm forces

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  5. What a sad story, and it probably happens more than we know. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. A sad, beautiful post that reminds us all of the price our veterans pay for protecting our freedom.

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  7. I completely understand where you come from. I myself come from a military background and whenever I go to a war memorial, I am overcome with unimaginable grief thinking of all the poor young things who gave their lives up for a cause they didn't even know about......

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