Monday, November 12, 2012

Duty. Honor. Sacrifice.

This Veterans' Day, take a moment to really try to understand the sacrifices that so many have endured through the years to continue to secure liberty in the face of grave danger.

My father-in-law was on pretty much every Pacific island through the entirety of WWII, driving boats up onto the beaches loaded with young men who were almost certainly riding to their deaths, over and over again, island after island, day after day, year after year.  When he enlisted, he was 16 years old.

And then he was called back into service and ended up in the Chosin Reservoir in Korea.  He survived that, too, but not without a cost -- he was wounded in a way that ended his hopes for a professional career in baseball.

How he managed to survive it at all, and come out the other side the sunny, optimistic man he was, I will never know.  But I am grateful for it, because he raised my husband, his son, to have the same courage and honor and patriotism, and duty to home and country, that also resonated with me.

I grew up in a family that honored military service.  My grandfather was in the Air Force during WWII.  All of my great uncles served in some capacity or other -- Army, Navy, Merchant Marines, Marines, you name it.

My Uncle Larry was sunk not once, but twice:  he was on a ship that got bombed and sunk in Pearl Harbor, just as he was completing his training and ready to ship out.  They transferred him to a ship in the Atlantic that was headed in for D-Day, and it also got sunk on the way to the beaches of Normandy.

Uncle Larry floated in the ocean on an oil barrel for days, watching his fellow sailors get picked off by sharks, one by one, right before his eyes.  It was horrific, and a miracle that he ever survived it, but he did. 

And he, too, was a gentle soul who taught me how to care for those who needed extra help and whose booming laugh always tickled me into laughing, too, even when life was tougher than I wanted it to be.  His laugh was infectious, even during the tough times, and he was beloved in the family for his steady calm in a tough situation.

To get any of these men to talk about what they did and saw was nearly impossible.  It simply was not the way of their generation. 

But we owe all of them an enormous debt for their sacrifices.  It is something we can never fully repay, but I say thank you today anyway.  It's a start.

I only hope that we can teach our daughter about the importance of service and sacrifice for a cause that is greater than just herself.  All too often these days, I find myself wondering if that is a lost lesson for far too many people.  But perhaps that is just my cynical side looking through the glass darkly.

(YouTube -- background information on the Pacific theater during WWII from the docudrama that Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks put together on The Pacific.)

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