For me, Veteran's Day always brings memories of local veterans who I know (or in most cases these days – knew). I've spoken of my “Uncle Ted” before, but I also had an “Uncle Nate” as well. He and “Aunt Edna” lived about a mile north of Ted's place, and I spent many a happy hour in their basement house. Uncle Nate was a small man, and he had a son who was considerable larger. The younger and larger Nate was known as “Little Nate” and the smaller but older Nate was “Big Nate.” Which is why - while I'm a Jr I'm nicknamed Jeff and my Dad (Robert for both of us) was known as Bob. My parents didn't want me hung with the sobriquet “Little Bob.”
Anyways, being a veteran was a large part of Nate's life. Every year his unit had a reunion, which found he and Edna in various places across the nation. Nate was in the Battle of the Bulge. I'm pretty sure he was involved in D-Day as well. Nate was like most veterans – he just didn't talk about what he'd seen or where he'd been. He and a cousin (another veteran) went on regular fishing trips that involved a lot of Old Charter. There was always a pint or two stashed in the garage – I spotted them nosing around playing as a child. As long as I can remember, Nate wore hearing aids. Edna would harangue Nate about something, and Nate would shut them off. Then, Edna would harangue him about that, and turn to me and wink. Nate would surreptitiously wink at me when Edna wasn't looking. Nate passed away a few years back, and Edna is in the local nursing home. She is the last of my elderly neighbors.
One of my longtime friends (Steve) father was in the Battle of the Bulge as well. He also liberated Hitler's Eagles Nest. This apparently involved drinking the liberated wines stored there. Needless to say, one of Steve's favorite DVD sets is “Band of Brothers” since his father lived that life. Gene was a paratrooper. He even scored some trophies – one is an officer's sidearm. Sadly, Gene is no longer with us. Steve is the repository for much of his father's experiences.
Another neighbor was in the Korean War. Jim's prize possession was a Garand he purchased after he got out, because he considered it to be the finest rifle he'd ever used. He wanted one just like the one he was issued, so he got one. He used it, too. Many a varmint fell to that rifle over the years. Jim is gone, too.
My uncle in Denver was in the Navy during the Korean War. He was in the Reserves for a long time after the war was over. He served aboard the USS Cronin (DEC 704).
My own father was stationed at Okinawa during the Korean conflict. He didn't see any action. He was a lineman. Nowadays, I fear Dad painted a pretty pure picture of his activities. He enjoyed building and flying control line model aircraft, and most of his pictures reflect that. He got to go to Japan several times on leave – somewhere I've got some yen from those trips. However, according to him, he must have lived a very boring life, because I never heard about any sort of mamasans, cathouses or otherwise. Either Dad was as pure as the driven snow, or he sort of neglected to tell his son about any “good times” he might have had.
All these men were involved with the local chapter of the VFW. I can remember Dad dressing in his khakis for funerals on a regular basis. The neighbors did the same. They didn't expect anything back other than they wanted the same at their funerals. They didn't look at their service to their country or to the VFW as anything other than it was the thing to do. There were no questions of self doubt about a mission, or the political ramifications, or any other sort of distraction. They served their country. They ate and took breaths. They raised families when they got home. They saluted the flag. It was their duty, but there was more to it than just simply doing their duty – they loved their country, their way of life, and felt they had to defend it when called.
These are the men who are my heroes. They became the backbone of our country – in areas requiring morals and courage, and just the simple day to day existences. I grew up in the era when the draft had been dropped, and registration wasn't required. I sometimes regret not having served, but the Armed Services weren't a great place to be at that particular time. Am I the equal of the men of the past? I honestly don't know, as I've never been tested. I am heartened at the bravery and fiber of our soldiers serving now, and hope that as they come back into our society, they will have the long term effects my heroes had.
So, I remember. I think that I am incapable of forgetting.