With Veteran’s Day upon us, I’d like to dedicate this blog post to all who’ve served to protect our freedom and to the brave men and women that continue to do this dangerous work today. Like my blog article on breast cancer, everyone has a story, and so many are very touching. Here’s mine:
I met the hottie above a few years ago, through his son. He told me he was a World War II veteran. As a typical civilian, I asked him some stupid questions. I said, “Were you an officer?” He laughed, and shook his head. “What battles were you in?” He laughed again. Then, with his wife with him, he explained what happened.
When Pearl Harbor was attacked December 7, 1941, he was a young teenager. In those days, the military draft was alive and well, as it continued at least two wars later. He read the newspapers, and adults around him said, “Don’t worry, son. It’ll be over before they get to you.”
Not quite. He received his draft notice a couple of years later, and was sent to learn how to operate an anti-aircraft weapon for the army in California. When he was sent overseas as a private, he was nowhere near such a weapon. Instead, he became a part of the end of the war in the Western theatre, known to most of us as “The Battle of the Bulge.” I asked him how many battles he was in, and he laughed again.
What he recalled like yesterday was crawling on his stomach, holding a gun and feeling the gunfire over him. He said when you got to a ditch, it was good, because the bullets flew over, but you also knew at one time or another you’d have to move on and crawl over a hill. So he did. While attempting to get to a shelter in the basement of a farmhouse, he took many bullets and a piece of shrapnel lodged in his back next to his spinal column.
Being a Prisoner of War, to state the obvious, did not get him to the best of medical care. Also, he was interrogated about one of the men in his company that he didn’t know anything about. He doesn’t give details about that, except that he said the truth “I don’t know” as many times as he could. Weeks later, he feel unconscious to an infection from his wounds. The local newspaper headlined him as missing.
To his fortune, another POW happened to be a surgeon. With minimal equipment and no anesthetic, he removed the shrapnel and let the wound drain. They were liberated and first sent to France for more recovery before going home. By the time he got home, he weighed just over one hundred pounds.
What happened after that? He picked himself up, went back to college, and lived his life. He married a lovely woman, became a successful businessman, and raised a son, who follows the great example set by his father. Years later, the man in his company he was interrogated about caught up with him for a nice visit. After retirement, he continues to spend his life helping other veterans. Last week he celebrated his 87th birthday. And he’s still good looking.
He told me once that people often ask him if he had any post traumatic stress after being through such an ordeal. His answer is always the same: “Everybody has post traumatic stress after such an ordeal.”
I call he and his wife “The teenagers.” Despite everything, one thing he never did was stop living. And may his days be blessed.