As July 4th approaches, let us celebrate those who are serving and who have served our country. It is common for our active duty service women and men and our veterans to not talk much about their service to our country. All of them deserve to be recognized for their service and sacrifice to our nation.
My father, Larry, was drafted into the US Army as an infantryman during World War II. Until my niece had a school project to interview a veteran, we did not ever hear about what he did.
He was stationed in Missouri and worked as a telephone lineman. One of his assignments was to be the company photographer from which he developed a lifelong passion. He served with a great group of guys from Hawaii with whom he developed lifelong friendships. Most of his friends left the service after the war, but one, Big Tom, made a career out of the Army and retired as a Colonel.
After the war, Daddy was a beneficiary of the GI Bill. Without the GI Bill, he could not have attended college. Later on, while applying for State jobs, he was able to indicate that he had served in the military and his veterans points helped to secure the job.
Arnold, Bud’s dad, served in the US Army during World War II. Arnold’s tenure was not as easy as my dad’s. While serving in the Pacific theater, Arnold was captured and spent the remainder of WWII in a Japanese POW camp.
Later, Arnold joined the Air Force as a career enlisted man and participated in the Berlin Airlift when food supplies were dropped to the citizens of Berlin while they were being starved into submission by the Russian military.
After the blockade ended, Bud’s dad met Bud’s mom at a dental office—some visits to the dentist aren’t all bad. Back in the US, Arnold passed away on a trip home from the local base. As his death was service-related, his widow, Erika, receives a widow’s pension and health benefits.
A close family friend, Pat, known as “Da” by my kids, was a Marine who served bravely at Iwo Jima.
Upon storming the beach, Pat survived a severe head wound that left him not knowing his own name for two years and with a metal plate in his head.
He always said that he wished that he could shake the hand of the unknown military surgeon who saved his life.
Pat went on to be a paramedic and a police officer. Though making a miraculous recovery from the head injury, Pat suffered from recurring epileptic episodes and mood swings. Fortunately, he had the VA medical system to help him with his medical issues.
Since his dad’s death was service-related, Bud received GI Bill benefits that helped pay for three years of undergraduate college education and two years of medical school.
During the 80’s when the military was not popular or respected in this country, Bud, after completing his second year of medical school, decided it was his duty to serve his country. He joined the US Marines as an enlisted man.
Our first date was canceled because Bud was called up to go on his annual mobilization. Future training sent Bud to Panama, Puerto Rico and other training sites. He served for six years in the Marine Enlisted Reserves, and seven years as a Navy Reserve doctor. Upon moving to Oregon, Bud taught doctors-in-training at the VA Portland facility for more than 20 years.
Let us also honor the families of service members. They are the ones who carry the torch at home.
I remember the time of Desert Storm. Bud received a call that he was on stand-by, to be ready to be called up for active duty at any time. For months, every time the phone rang, my mind was unsettled with thoughts of Bud leaving for an indeterminate length of time, serving who knows where.
Our two kids were not even five, I was working full-time; we were worried about the coming “Mother of all Battles.” I was lucky. The Iraq War was over in 48 hours.
I feel for Larry’s, Arnold’s, Pat’s and other unselfish families who carried on at home amid worries for their loved ones. War is lengthy and brutally dangerous. When a family member is serving, there can be lengthy separations.
Responsibility to Those that Served
Throughout the year, let us honor those who are serving and have served by remembering what they go and went through, in all branches of service—Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, Coast Guard, and National Guard.
To those and their families that are now serving: thank you for your sacrifice. To those who came back, we honor and respect you for what you did for us. We must remember to help you transition back into civilian life, whether to help you find employment, help with education and training and with healthcare.
To those who came back harmed either physically or mentally, you gave more of yourselves. We should always honor and assist you with kindliness, whether there is a need for extra assistance with housing, homelessness, mental health services, medical services, training and jobs.
To those who did not come back and their families: your sacrifice can never be repaid. We owe you an extra measure of gratitude, including financial assistance and support for the family members who must carry on. You are forever in our hearts.
We honor and celebrate those who serve in our military, our veterans and all their families. Thank you for your service to our country.