(This is a reprint of an article used in this column many times before for Veteran’s Day. Every time I try to write something new for Veteran’s Day, I find I am unable to better express my feelings for those who served in our military. If you have read this before, I hope you will find it worth your time to read it once again.)
We are playing taps far too frequently these days for our comrades from World War II, and Korean War vets are also decreasing in numbers. We Vietnam era vets know we’re next.
Like many veterans, I belong to the American Legion in my hometown. Most American Legion posts are similar, with fish fries on Friday nights, Bingo on Wednesdays, barbecues in the summer, country music on the jukebox and a faint odor of stale beer, cigarettes and popcorn in the hospitality room.
Give most vets half-a-chance and they will share their military experiences with other vets, but there are a few vets who don’t share their military experiences with anyone. Some sit quietly at the end of the bar, not really talking to anyone, while others might socialize until the subject turns to war memories; then they quietly withdraw.
One of my dearest friends served in Vietnam. I served during the war, but he served in the war – there is a big difference. I have many good memories of my military experience I like to remember, but he has a lot of memories of his military experience he would give anything to forget. As close as we are, he has never shared them with me.
Everyone who fought for their country in every war was wounded in some way or another – physically, spiritually or emotionally. Some wounds are much more serious than others, and they don’t always come from bullets.
I have seen the scars from the entry wounds on my friend’s abdomen and the scars from the exit wounds on his back. As painful as these wounds were, the most painful wounds he suffered left scars on his soul. Try as he might, he cannot drink them away.
Legion and VFW posts are not elegant country clubs where prospects need pull, position or power to become members, and wealth is not an eligibility requirement. Still for many of our veterans, the price for membership was terribly high.
Regardless of which era they come from, which war they served during or in, or which uniform they wore – our veterans deserve our heartfelt thanks.