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I’ve never had the honor of encountering soldiers as they were actively doing their duty. I’ve met soldiers on leave, and former soldiers, and Marines, about whom I can never say “former”. Because once a Marine, always a Marine. I suppose I am fortunate in never having been in an active war zone, where our fighting men and women were doing their finest to protect me, but I can say in all honesty that I am surely glad to know that they are where they are needed.
So today, I want to take a few moments to acknowledge the soldiers I have known and respected, and in some cases, loved.
My Grandpa. The source of my earliest memory – a very wise and peaceful man. He enlisted during WWI (I think), but never saw action due to a most unfortunate accidentally bayonet injury. If that hadn’t happened, would I even be here?
My Aunt Irene. She was an army nurse during WWII. She met her husband in the military, and while he was likely one of the lamest husbands ever, he could kill a chicken by swinging it around above his head, holding it by the neck. I don’t think that’s much of a recommendation. He wound up running off with his son’s wife’s mother. Probably the best thing that ever happened to my aunt.
Norris Woody. My father’s best friend in the world. My father wasn’t eligible for the draft, but Woody was and saw action in Germany in WWII. He brought home some battle souvenirs for my father, who kept them in a trunk in the attic. I remember that one of them was a captured Nazi flag. And I remember the day my father found out Woody had died. We had just gotten back from the beach, and he stood in the kitchen doorway, bracing himself on either side of the doorframe, nearly ashen, and said, “I just realized that I’m not immortal. Woody is dead.”
John Prince. A Boulder local for a number of years. We met in a Laundromat, and somehow, I became the person to whom he told his darkest secrets about his time in Vietnam. I will not repeat them here. We only ever saw each other in the Laundromat, and once in Juanita’s. He was mustachioed and handsome and always wore a cowboy hat, and he was the most polite man I ever met. Every time we met, he tipped his hat, and called me “Ma’am”. I never minded being called “Ma’am” by him. I was always a little swoony for him. I wonder what ever happened to him.
Stan: Stan and I never met, but I feel I know him. I have channeled his recipe for slumgullion, and his picture is in my living room. He served as a doctor in several wars, and I’m not sure he ever found peace in this life, but I think he has in the next place. And he left a lot of good in this world.
Ex-Pat: Yes, my ex-husband is a veteran. He was fortunate enough, when drafted during the Vietnam era, to be sent to Korea, where he was a medic. And he helped people. I think it scarred his tender side, perhaps even made him turn away from it forever. But he is proud of having done his duty, as he should be.
BIL Tom: Tom was also a Vietnam-era draft, and he wasn’t as lucky as ex-Pat. He went into the jungles and emerged with a nasty wound from a pongee stick, but he emerged alive.
Jake: Jake and I dated for a short while. He too was a Vietnam Vet who carried the mental scars. He had a horrible fear of snakes, and I learned early not to startle him in his sleep. His service changed him. There was much he couldn’t speak of, and he would get emotional when he did. But his heart was huge.
CJ: Ex-Pat’s best friend for a number of years, he was seriously wounded in Vietnam, and it took him years to recover. But recover he did. After knowing him for 25 years, he has never spoken to me of his service or his injuries.
Lyle: While we have never actually met, we’ve talked for a few months now. I can sense more about him than I know, and I know he’s spent most of his life tredding in dangerous territory in the Middle East. He’s saved some lives and watched some be lost, and it has marked him, but he keeps going. And that is honor.
Captain Buddy: Buddy epitomizes the “Once a Marine, always a Marine” motto. He still celebrates the Marine Corps birthday every year with his mates, and I was honored to be his guest at one such celebration. He too has shared much with me, which will never be discussed with another living soul, and again, he has honored me by trusting me with that knowledge. He is one of the few people on this planet who I know will always have my back, or “tune someone up” on my behalf.
And last, but never least, my Captain: His service in the Marine Corps was an honor to his country, and the country returned the honor, by helping to care for him during his last illness. He wouldn’t have stood a fighting chance without his Veteran’s benefits, and he fought as hard as anyone I’ve ever met in his battle to live. I wish it had been a fight that he’d won – I doubt there were many others that he’d lost. He would always laugh when I would try to sing the Marine Corps Hymn to him, so I tried it as often as I could during the years we were together. He had such a great laugh. He was such a good man. As he always told me when I was low, “Marines and Risdons never leave a man behind.” He couldn’t help leaving me behind this time.
So to all you soldiers who have touched my life – and that is all of you, whom I have known or whom I have never met – I thank you on this day in May for your service to our country and to us.
As long as there is memory, you will never be forgotten.
Photo title: Angel on the Doorstep
Highland Park, Illinois.
Quote of the day: “Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Finding the perfect thing at the perfect price at auction
Giving with no expectations
Those who served.