I had a recent discussion with a young lady concerning Veterans Day. I simply asked her if her father was a Veteran of any service. She said "Umm... yea, I think my Dad was in the Navy". I asked her to do her Dad a favor, call him up and say "Thanks Dad, for serving our Country". She looked at me perplexed and asked "Why, it's just another day on the calender". I had to walk away. She obviously doesn't grasp the enormity of what our Veterans went through.
I can't call my Dad anymore, he passed away in 2008. I now call my Mom and thank her. See, my Dad broke the rules in 1944, lied about his age and got in at 16 (he was 6'4", who would argue with him). First stop, some non-descript Asian island with fierce fighting. Second stop, some non-descript Germanic land with fierce fighting. He was done. No more misery, loss of life. He got out. That lasted until Korea and he couldn't stand on the sidelines while playing baseball on a farm team for (then) the New York Giants. He quit baseball and went back into the service, again, fighting in some non-descript Asian country.
Knowing that this would not be his last hurrah, he stayed in the military and fought in another non-descript Asian country during the 60's and 70's. After that little "police" action, he decided to hang up his spurs and retire. I was still a kid when he retired from the service. Not much was said concerning his wartime service. I knew he saw some bad things and did some great things, based on the ribbons on his chest. I still didn't get it. He worked the rest of his career with Mobile Oil Company.
Dad had to quit working because of failing health. It wasn't because of the multiple gunshot or shrapnel wounds he had received over 30yrs, it was some sickening disease brought on by our attempt defoliating a jungle. During his last 10yrs of life, he was on oxygen. During his last 3yrs, he was in a wheelchair. During his last year, he couldn't care for himself. It broke my heart. At his deathbed, my brothers and I watched this proud man, this Soldier of Soldiers, fade away. He still could communicate, he still had his faculties. I'm only 5'11". I was taller than Dad when he died. It still breaks my heart.
So, now I call the other hero, my Mom. Remember, I said my Dad was 6'4", roughly 250lbs. Big tough dude. My Mom ... 5'2", petite. Imagine this - she was in the background during all my Dad's deployments. Wondering, fear, news clips ... oh, and raising 9 kids. She had to set aside her personal fear for my Dad's safety and instead concentrate on raising 9 hell-raising kids. I think she did alright. Her biggest hero-award period though was the last 10yrs of my Dad's life. She had alway relied on his strength, now the roles are reversed where he had to rely on my Mom for life. Not many had the toughness, the love to fully care
I'd imagine this little story rings some truth to many of America's families. Not only do the Veterans live by John 15:13 "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends", but the behind the scenes, the wives, mothers, kids all share this sense of duty and honor.
I took my Dad's sense of duty, honor, county AND family to heart. I'm going on my 2nd 12month tour to some non-descript land-locked Middle East country. I've been there once but they rushed me out on MEDEVAC 6 months later (that's another story). I've been to other non-descript Western Aisan/Middle East country twice. In all, I've spent 30months in combat and going for 12 more, away from my family and friends. I'm not sure why I keep doing it, but it's built in, ingrained. I know this - I WILL NOT sit on the sidelines while my fellow countrymen are fighting and dying. I don't have any cool bumper-sticker slogans to throw out there.
So, as I remember that young lady who doesn't grasp why we would honor our Veterans, I don't get mad, I just walk away knowing that my family has endured hell so young people like her can be oblivious to what it takes to make this Country great. So, all I'm asking, if you know a Veteran, just do yourself a favor and Thank him/her (regardless of Country). No worries, the Veteran will not be embarrassed, but it sure makes them remember what they were and are fighting for. You. And please, please, thank the spouse and kids for their sacrifice as well.
CSM Patrick F. Murphy, U.S. Army
Veteran - WWII/Korea/Vietnam