I remember being a young girl in grade school, and in our history class, when we learned about war. It was an eye-opener for me, and when I went home that day, I asked my dad if he had been in a war. He told me that he had been in WWII, and I was about to ask him more questions when I saw my mother in the doorway. She was shaking her head “no” and I stopped asking.
Later on, she told me that my dad had been in the war, and that he didn’t want to talk about it. I asked her why and she told me that it was hard for him to talk about it and please not ask him again. It was years later that I studied men of his age and found that none of the veterans as a rule wanted to talk about the war and what they had seen and done.
It was two years ago that my dad moved in with us, and died peacefully in our home. I was grateful to be there with him when he passed. After his burial, I asked the funeral director if I could get him a foot stone showing his service in the army. He told me what was needed to do so, and years later I finally found Dad’s discharge papers to get the ball rolling on it.
The discharge papers were the only way I found out where he was in WWII; Germany, Normandy, Vietnam and South Africa. I was (and still am) astounded. I had known from Mom that he was in Germany during the war, but I never knew of the other places. It was another way of seeing who he was during that time. Of course I’ve seen pictures of Dad as a young man; even a few of him in uniform. But now that I know where he was during the war, I feel that my questions have been answered.
Back then when the veterans came home, it wasn’t unusual for them to jump if there was a loud noise, such as a car back-firing. It wasn’t called PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) then; at the time they called it “shell shock.” There weren’t any rescoures for them back then; they just pushed the bad memories away and didn’t talk about it. Whenever I drove by a rotary club with lots of older men inside, I always figured that that was a place where the veterans could be together, perhaps telling their own stories and experiences.
My grandfather served in WWI. I suspect that he too never spoke much about his time in the Army either. His generation was much like Dad’s; go to war, do the best you can, and then come home and put it behind you. I have nothing but pride and thanks for my grandfather and my father and their service in WWI and WWII. I have nothing but pride and thanks for every veteran and every service member. They are all heroes and we all owe them our lives and our freedoms.
Let us remember them today and every day.