A Gift Bestowed
October 11, 2011
Milt (pictured above), at the age of 92, has the distinction of being one of the dwindling number of World War II veterans alive today. Milt served as a paratrooper jumping into Nazi occupied territory in Southern France and Italy. He fought at the Battle of the Bulge and received many awards and medals for his service. Most noteworthy are his Croix de Guerre from France and the Bronze Star from the USA; both medals are given for extreme bravery and heroism.
Ken, at the age of 19, joined the US Navy for four years because of his low draft number. He fought in the Vietnam War and "most of the active hot spots in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia".
Both men served honorably. Even though Milt and Ken are a generation apart and fought in two very different wars, their experiences in and out of war have many similarities. Upon their return from duty, both found employment, worked, married, raised a family, and kept their war stories to themselves.
They experienced the horrors of war which remain in their memories to this day. While Ken refuses to talk about his Southeast Asia experience, Milt says when it comes to being a soldier, "You don’t have to be crazy, but it helps..." and, "You have to do what you have to do." It wasn’t until about 15 years ago that Milt finally began to share his war stories.
One similarity unfortunately true of Milt, Ken, and most veterans is that they come home and resume their lives with little recognition or thanks for their service. One Vietnam vet stepped off his plane to what he thought was a huge crowd welcoming the soldiers. He soon found out they were anti-war demonstrators throwing bags of urine at the soldiers stepping off the plane.
At a Memorial Day observance I recently attended, a speaker asked all of the men and women in the audience who were now serving or had previously served in the armed forces to please come forward and stand on the platform in the front of the room. Next, he asked those who had relatives serving in the military to come forward. Lastly, he asked all of those who had lost a relative or friend in a war to come forward. Looking around the room it was easy to see that there were only a few people left sitting in the audience. War touches us all.
If you feel grateful for our liberty in America, remember to thank a vet! It’s nice to feel grateful, but even better to express it. William Ward said, "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." Gladys Stern put it more bluntly, "Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone."