Pause to honor, and thank, veterans

Every Veterans Day should be a massive event, a day of total reverence and celebration for those who have given so much for so many.

I have always felt this should be so. When I was in grade school, a friend and I asked my teacher if we could make something for the veterans in our community and invite them in for a special day. She said it just isn’t done, adding that most men really don’t want to talk about their service in war.

I carried that with me for a long time, feeling that I could not bring up the subject.

‘Congratulations.’

My own father had come of age as forces were battling in the Korean Conflict. Newly married, he went to the mailbox on his farm one beautiful summer morning to find a letter which began, “Congratulations!” and ended with instructions for him to follow in order to begin his processing in to service in the United States Army. He boarded the bus for Cleveland, passed his physical, then returned to his busy life to await further instructions.

Later in life, he recalled the feelings he had during those months of waiting. He knew that he would serve with honor, as he carried patriotic pride in his heart. He also felt torn at the thought of leaving, as any young man certainly would.

As the oldest in his family, he was still helping to raise his younger siblings after his mother’s death at age 36 and his father’s suffocating depression after her sudden death. As a newlywed, Dad was setting up his own household and farming as much ground as he could in order to build on what little he had started with.

A few months later, another notice arrived in the mail, telling him that he would be deferred temporarily due to his recent marriage and his “head of household” status. He was to await further instructions.

Time’s up

One night, following a long day in a factory after having worked his farm fields late in to the night, the mail carried another letter, saying his service in the U.S. Army was imminent. He was to fill out additional paperwork and return it for processing.

My parents had just celebrated their first wedding anniversary, and on the day this letter arrived had learned that they were about to become first-time parents. The thought of leaving was heart-wrenching, to say the least, but my father completed the paperwork and prepared himself to become a soldier.

He had lost a dear neighbor boy in World War II, an only child to loving parents, and Dad often said he wanted to serve with patriotic pride and reverence for the friend lost to war.

A few months later, a letter carried the news that he had again been temporarily deferred due to his family status. It wasn’t long after that letter arrived that the Korean Conflict began to wind down.

Throughout his life, Dad spoke of veterans with respect and reverence. Though it went unsaid, I think a part of him felt he owed more than just this reverence to his peers who went to war while he remained at home.

Next generation

My husband, who came of age during the height of the Vietnam era, was processed out of the draft due to high blood pressure, which he has never had since that day of medical testing.

The son of a World War II Navy veteran, he has felt a sense of guilty regret all these years that others served while he was sent home. It was a subject of which he spoke with my father from time to time.

We should honor

We collectively owe that respect and reverence to all who have served. Veterans Day should be at least a week-long celebration, a chance for us to show our gratitude to those who left their home, endured more than we can even begin to grasp, so that we could continue to live in comfort and freedom in ours.

Stories of those who served should be shared so that we can attempt to fathom the enormity of their service.

Each day, we are losing hundreds of World War II veterans, and far too often their tales of service go to the grave with them. If you have a veteran in your life, urge him or her to let you write their active duty stories so that their service can be shared for the generations to follow.

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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