Friday, November 11, 2011

We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

On Veterans Day, I am thinking of Dad, who served in Vietnam with my mom's big brother. Dad and Uncle Dan lived in the same Air Force barracks and became good friends. Uncle Dan mentioned to my mom in a letter home that a guy he was serving with was lonely and would appreciate some mail. Mom and Dad remained pen pals throughout Dad's entire time in the service. When Dad came home after his required four years, he and Mom got married--and celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary two weeks ago. Uncle Dan, who also made it home safely, still reminds them from time to time that they can thank him for their marriage. That is a happy Vietnam story, and yes, we can all thank Uncle Dan. There are other things to thank him and my dad for, as well, of course, although "thank you" is too little in comparison with years of sacrifice, lost friends, and the dark nights and nightmares. 
My grandmother once told me something her brother Al had recounted to his family about his experiences in the army in World War I, and it still gives me chills. Uncle Al and the men in his unit were lying in wait on a hillside, still in the silence and straining to hear any movement, when they suddenly saw a line of what Grandma described to me as plumes marching over the hill toward them. Uncle Al had explained that the German soldiers at that time wore helmets with a distinctive spike or plume on top and later told his family that he had never been as terrified as he was in that moment, seeing that line of helmet-tops appear. Uncle Al also came home safely. One of his daughters, likely now in her seventies, proudly sent me his army photo above when I asked years ago.
My grandfather's youngest brother's war was World War II, where he served in the Marine Corp. Amongst the lifetime of personal papers, photographs, and paper ephemera of my grandparents' that my parents and I long ago had to sort through was a yellowed wall calendar with a note written onto one day's square marking Uncle Mike's departure for boot camp. Uncle Mike lived into his 80s.

A favorite old Veterans Day comic strip from Lynn Johnston:
(click to enlarge)
Dad and Uncle Dan and Uncle Al and Uncle Mike--and Uncle Warren, who served in the Navy, and Great-Grandpa, who was an Italian POW during the first World War, and Papa Lee, who was one of the helmsmen of the USS Wasp--and veterans everywhere: Thank you and happy Veterans Day. 


C'est moi Claudette said...

WOW Val, so many of us have been affected by the War, any war.
Those are GREAT pics Val. Weren't they handsome? They were all so brave. I can't imagine an army coming at me all at once. Unreal.

liz said...

Beautiful pictures.

Val said...

Thank you, Claudette and Liz.

asmplelife said...

What a wonderful story about your mom and dad meeting via your uncle! And how proud you all must be of all the servicemen that have come from your family. Please thank each and every one of them.

Val said...

Thank you, asl. :) My parents' story is sweet. They have saved all their letters from each other from the years he was in the service, and I can't help but think "Those would make a great BOOK!"--truly, what a capturing of both personal history and world history they would make--but it's their story, and I am betting they will keep the letters to themselves and be buried with them someday.

asmplelife said...

yes, some things are meant to be private. i think that must be hard for us to relate to, in this age of blogging and tweeting and sharing everything. but not letters between lovers. those should be private. maybe someday you'll get to read some of them.