Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S., a day to honor those who have served our country in the military. I’ve mentioned that I live near an Air Force base, so the sight of men and women in fatigues and blue uniforms is common around here. That doesn’t mean we take these American heroes and heroines for granted. We are aware that even as we go about our usual routines here, our military are putting their lives in danger on a daily basis overseas. I have a young cousin serving in the Middle East now; I pray that Dan returns home safely to his parents, Mark and Susan.
Among my mother’s cherished belongings were several letters written by her uncle during World War II. The letters were written to his mother and his sister (Mom’s mother). Some of them were heavily censored with black bars. All expressed his love for his family and his longing for home. I now treasure those pages of history written by my great uncle Henry.
My husband’s father was a veteran of two wars, World War II and Korea. He served as an Army tank commander in World War II, surviving the Battle of the Bulge — one of 6 out of 125 in his unit to do so. He saw and heard horrific things. He was an Air Force cook in Korea, and would later retire from the Air Force.
He rarely spoke of the wars. Even when my husband asked as a curious teenager, Waymon chose to keep his experiences buried inside him. He did admit not long before he died in 1994 that after almost fifty years, he still had nightmares about the things he had seen in battle.
He earned two Purple Hearts — one of which was stolen from him years later. He paid for his service with the shrapnel scars he carried on his body until the day he died, and with a battle against alcohol he waged his entire adult life. Like many young soldiers, he had turned to that escape and it refused to release him when he returned home. He retired from the Air Force, but he was always an “old soldier.” His service defined him.
Waymon loved his family — his parents, his sisters, his much younger brother, his wife, daughter and son — though he was of the generation that found it difficult to express that love. He loved his five grandchildren and enjoyed spoiling them. And he loved the country he served for so long. We honor his memory today, and I know my husband still misses his dad very much.
I hope everyone who reads this takes the time to thank a veteran today.