Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

My father-in-law Harry, an immigrant from Sweden, proudly served in the United States Army during World War II. Harry stepped on a mine in a field outside of St. Lo in France, he was twenty-six years old at the time and he was forced to cut the muscle of his leg loose with his own knife when the medic couldn't bring himself to do what needed to be done. He, along with many other seriously wounded soldiers, unceremoniously received the purple heart while recovering in an Army hospital ward when a soldier came and nonchalantly walked through the ward and threw the medals down on their beds. The Army then trained Dad to earn a living making wallets, but when he returned to the United States, Harry went back into construction working as a dock builder until he retired at the age of sixty-two.

In addition to my father-in-law, I have other family members that served proudly and still serve today. My Dad served in the United States Coast Guard and he was stationed on a weapons supply ship in the South Pacific during WWII. My Uncle Tom served in the Army and was stationed in France during WWII, my Aunt Florence said he never talked about the war, but he went to confession each week after the war and continued to confess 'his sin' in the war but he never felt forgiven. He carried his scars until the day he died at seventy-six years old.
My brother Tommy joined the Marines, we were lucky in that he was stationed here in the States. My brother John joined the Army, he was not so lucky, he did a tour in Viet Nam. Our nephew Thomas now serves in the Navy and was stationed on the USS Halsey which was deployed to the Persian Gulf, he's now stationed in South Carolina. Our nephew Adam was in the Marine Reserves and did a tour in Iraq, and his brother Mikael is now serving in the Marine Reserves and he also did a tour in Iraq. This summer Mikael was sent to Africa to train for Afghanistan. No word yet on when he will be deployed. Please keep him in your prayers.

I think one of the biggest blights on 'my generation' is the way we treated our Viet Nam Veterans. It's one thing to protest a war, but to protest the boys in uniform (and yes, most of them were 'boys') who did not have the luxury of deciding whether to go to war or not, to protest those boys, to spit on them, to call them 'baby-killers', to ridicule those boys was in my opinion cruel to say the least. Boys all but destroyed by war and then further decimated by their fellow Americans. Shame on us. Shame on us.

I am in awe when I think of the sacrifices that have been made for us to enjoy the freedom we have.
I am in awe of our military and I am in awe of their families who also sacrifice so much. It is mind-boggling to think of all the lives lost, all the bodies that have been maimed, all the souls that have been damaged, and the heartbreak left in the wake of wars. And yet the cycle of war continues, and good men and good women continue to answer the call to duty, and good men and good women continue to sacrifice.

This poem was written during World War I:

The Yankee Division Cemetery In Lorraine

The peasant children pass it as they leave the village school
The pious strangers cross themselves along the road to Toul
The captains call attention as the dusty troops plod by
The officers salute it though receiving no reply
'Tis a spot all brown and barren amid the poppies and the grain
The Y-D cemetery by a roadside in Lorraine

A row of wooden crosses and beneath the upturned sod
The hearts once wild and restless now know the peace of God
The brave young lads who left us while life was at it's flood
While life was fresh and joyous and fire was in the blood
Their young lives now enfranchised from mirth or joy or pain
They sleep the sleep eternal by a roadside in Lorraine

Of all the myriad places for the dead of man to rest
The graveyard of the warrior for a freeman is the best
Oh, not for them our pity, but far across the foam
For the gray-haired mother weeping in some New England home
'Tis she who has our pity, 'tis she who feels the pain
Of the Y-D cemetery by a roadside in Lorraine

The plodding columns pass them along the old Toul road
New companies come marching where yesterday they strode
Above, the whirr of motors and beyond, the roar of guns
Where their allies and their brothers join battle with the Huns
And the sunlight of their glory bursts through the clouds and rain
O'er the Y-D cemetery by a roadside in Lorraine
~ Col. Harry B. Anderson, 26th Div. Judge Advocate


  1. Eileen -
    I am saluting - tears streaming down my face. This is a fantastic, honest tribute. "thank you"
    Love Gail'
    peace and freedom

  2. Wow what a powerful post. Thank you for making it so beautiful! I am married to a Viet Nam Veteran. Very proud of him too. Yes he was just a boy when he served his country and was wounded and return home before his tour was up. He saw things a young man should never have to see, and had to pay the price. I remember him having nightmares when we were first married. I was just a baby myself and didn't understand the total effect of his wounds mentally and physically. Thank you for the tribute and memories of all our soldiers. I pray for them every night!

  3. I agree with everything that you said so beautifully Eileen. You have a family to be proud of for sure. I am so grateful to all of our service men and women, past and present that valiantly fight for our freedom everyday.
    It seems that so many people take our freedoms for granted. Never realizing that if it were not for these courageous people, our world would be ever so different. Bless them all and you for posting this beautiful post.
    Love You, Di ♥

  4. You are such a good woman Eileen. You know what is important in life, you know what to value. I have lots of respect for you.

  5. You put so much heart into this post. This is absolutely amazing. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  6. I couldn't help but shed tears in my soul for this post. Thanks for the photos, the poem, and the love that went with it.

    Much love