I remember the bugler playing Taps and the rifle salute as they laid my dad’s brother Sam to rest. I was about ten years old and my dad explained that the bugle and the guns and the flag over his coffin was because Uncle Sam had been a Navy pilot during World War II. It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned that Sam had been a happy go lucky young man with a pretty new bride when he joined the service, but by war’s end he had gotten a Dear John letter and came home a different person. Dad said he didn’t know if it was the wife or the war that changed him, but for the rest of his life Sam was a quiet loner given to strong drink, who seldom smiled and never laughed.
I remember the medals my dad and my other uncles kept tucked away in cigar boxes or dresser drawers. They seldom talked about their war experiences, but they flew their flags and joined the VFW and the American Legion, and sometimes they’d sit at the kitchen table with their beer and talk quietly. Whenever the kids or women came around, they grew quiet.
I remember the principal coming over the PA system when I was a freshman in high school to tell us that Mark Bauman, who had graduated the year before, had been killed in action in Vietnam. Most of us new kids didn’t have any idea who he was, but I saw tears in the eyes of several of our teachers that day. As the next four years went by, there were more announcements and more tears.
I remember some of my classmates talking about going to Canada rather than being willing to fight in a war they did not believe in, and others who couldn’t wait to graduate and enlist.
I remember my drill instructor telling us the first day of basic training that he was going to ride us long and hard for the next eight weeks, because he would rather we had a red ass than a Purple Heart.
I remember the terror of the first firefight I was in, and the second, and the third, and all the others. I remember friends who had to grow up way too fast, and other friends who never got to grow up.
I remember coming home and being assigned as a funeral escort, and more bugles playing Taps and more gun salutes and more flags over more coffins. I remember fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers and wives who looked at me and wondered why it was their son or brother or husband in that box and not me. I remember wondering the same thing myself.
I don’t need today to remind me that we are a free nation only because for centuries young American men and women have left their homes and families and answered the call. I don’t need today to remind me that a lot of them never made it home, and a lot more came home maimed in body and wounded in mind. I don’t need today to remind me that for many, their war may be over but their suffering never ends.
I remember every day.
Thought For The Day – A veteran, whether active duty, retired, National Guard or Reserve, is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for any amount of "up to and including their life."
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Beautifully written, NIck. Thank you.
Thank you Nick, remembering and honor is what it’s about.
Nick, I remember almost 30 years ago, the phone call from Lenny at 2am that his brother had been killed in an accident while serving in the Army. It was two months before our wedding. Last year, I remember the phone call from my best friends husband. Their son who served three tours in Iraq in the Explosives Ordinance Division, was riding his motorcycle in FL when a middle aged woman, on her cell phone, ran a red light. He was killed instantly. Whenever I see a service man or woman, I always say thank you. I cherish my freedom that they fought for. So, Thank you Nick for serving our country!
Thank you Nick for this very appropriate message, and thanks to all my fellow Shipmates, Marines and Soldiers who answered the call. God bless you all.
Thank you for a very moving post….and thank you for serving…
Thank you, Nick, for your service. Thank you my hubby and all others too who have served. Because of you I am free and able to travel in my RV and enjoy this beautiful country you have defended for me.
I couldn’t have said it any better Nick.
May we never forget.
Thank you Nick
Add my thanks for your service and the box of medals that you earned and keep put deeply away. My uncle was an Air Force air traffic controller in London during the blitz and my dad, a scientist, was drafted into civilian service working on the Manhattan Project. I was rejected health wise for pilot school in 62 but I lost a bunch of classmates and friends and my Marine cousin gave in to ptsd about 4 years after coming home. from nam. Like many, I did my service as a first responder on the homefront in the 60s in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Lansing but it sure wasn’t the same as those who went.
Thank you for your service and a thank you to all of the men and women who have served through the years to protect the ideals of the country we hold dear.
Well stated Nck.
Thanks Nick not only for this beautiful blog but for your service to our great country.
Nick: Your best body of work.
Thank you and all my fellow vets for serving
Well written entry.
Thank you for serving.
Thank you for a very moving post….and thank you for serving…
This is a keeper, Nick. I’m printing it to share. Thanks for serving. My husband was in the Coast Guard.
Thank you so much for your service. That was a beautiful article and a great tribute.
Well done. Thank you !
Wow! Very impressive. Sad how the soldier was willing to write a blank check to Uncle Sam including giving up his life but Uncle Sam won’t even take care of their wounds. Very sad. I want to thank my son Steve for serving his country for 7 year’s in the U.S. Navy. Anchors Away, my Boys!
Just in case anyone thinks otherwise, today is NOT National BBQ Day!!
Best post yet. God bless our fallen troops and their families, and God Bless America.
Great article, freedom is not free
I believe this is the best tribute I have ever read.
Nick Thanks for thanks for putting in writing what most of us veterans keep in our hearts.
Very touching post. Thank you and my husband and all the others who have served our country.
When I buried my father, an Army veteran, in 2008, the military funeral he had made the grief so much easier to deal with. The poignant salutes, taps, and handing over of the flag, was a beautiful moving tribute to my Dad. I thank all
who have served.
What ever your political persuasion, we all appreciate those service personnel who gave their lives and/or their service for our freedoms. We thank them all for our ability to be here, free, to disagree over the future of our nation. They thankfully were there for all Americans.God loves them all. Connie B.
That hits the nail squarely on the head!!! Thanks, Nick!
Thanks for the thoughtful, moving post and for your service.
Thank you! What really bugs the *h* out of me is people who say “Happy Memorial Day.” I lost a childhood good friend in Viet Nam. I married my best friend who served in Viet Nam. I visited the Viet Nam memorial–very emotional experience. One of my brothers served during WWII and the other served in the Korean War. This was one of your best written pieces!
thank you nick