A Personal Veterans Day
by James Frye
Every time this holiday rolls around my thoughts go to my late Dad. Looking through my family history, service to our country is a family tradition. Growing up, I ran across photos and memories from my family’s past ranging from a Grandfather proudly posing in uniform from World War I to stories of life in the armed services from uncles, cousins and other relations. My brother and I both enlisted in the US Navy and served honorably – neither of us are combat vets.
However, my Dad still stands out when I hear or see the word “veteran.” He grew up in a small town in Colorado and as I said at his memorial he was what John Wayne played in the movies. He started life working as a real cowboy, busting broncs and catching cougars to sell to roadside “zoos.” When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he lied about his age to enlist in the Navy. In his 26 years in service he rose to the rating of Chief and fought in three wars (World War II, Korea and Vietnam) – volunteering for two tours during the last one.
He was a member of the generation who served in war but kept the details of that service from his family. Although he never said it outright, he and other members of what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation” felt that what they did and what happened to them was a burden of necessity for them whose horrors didn’t need to be shared by their spouses and children. As hard as I tried to get him to talk about his wartime experience the most I ever got from him was that the big guns on the Destroyers he served on were so loud that ear wax melted and poured out of his ears and that the planes attacking his ship blew up in the air when shot down. He’d mentioned almost in passing that during his second tour in Vietnam he served on a river patrol boat – something I had no idea of the meaning of until I watched the movie ‘Apocalypse Now.’
The one thing he would have laughed at would have been if anyone had called him a “hero.” For him and others like him, being in the military and fighting in a war was a dirty job that needed to be done to protect the country he and they fiercely loved. We didn’t need flags and other public displays of patriotism to get the message of his love of country – his life was testament to that.
Everyone who is serving or has served in the military is quiet testimony to that as well. It’s not the only way to show love of country, but there is something to be said about people willing to literally risk everything – up to and including their lives – for the nation. And that something can be summed up in three words: God bless them.
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