Time and travel make war more palpable to a naive writer
I feel I’ve been naive about war and the importance of Veterans Day.
As a grade school kid, I only knew it was the time my mom went to a parade and a potluck dinner. It didn’t seem like a big-deal holiday to me and the parade was a bunch of old guys wearing blue Boy Scout caps with medals on them. I didn’t know what to make of it.
Over time, I learned she was president of the American Legion Auxiliary (Whiting, Ind., Post 80) and my uncles Ted and Herb served in World War I, uncles Dick and Tony and cousin Herb were in World War II. Uncle Benny served in Korea. My mom also had a great-great-great relative who fought in the Revolutionary War and a great grandfather in the Civil War.
No wonder she went to the parade. No wonder she always flew the flag. Veterans, foreign wars, old wars – most of my uncles were still around then. No one in our family died in a war. It all sounded pretty big and while I loved history, it seemed foreign to me. Over time, I’ve become more aware of what service to country means. My three brothers, my only brother-in-law were sailors and their marriages launched five sailors, two soldiers, a Navy lieutenant nephew- in-law and an Air Force ROTC cadet. We were a bit nervous when my nephew went to Kuwait in 2007 and grateful when he came home. His oldest son is on the USS Harry S. Truman; his youngest served in the National Guard.
No one I know has made the ultimate sacrifice. A dear friend lost her brother in the Vietnam War. I can’t even imagine what that’s like and it almost hurts to try.
This year (2009) has presented several opportunities for me to begin to piece together the importance of the parade and potluck dinner my mom celebrated each year with the guys in the blue caps. A day trip to the Peace Museum in Caen, France, visits to the Normandy beaches and to the American Military Cemetery were sobering experiences. The documentaries at the museum coupled with standing on Omaha Beach brought to life the scenes I’d only seen in movies.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there, but I am so glad I made the trip.
I’ve met some wonderful veterans through my work at the Las Cruces Bulletin. I was honored to attend the deployment ceremony for the 573rd engineering unit at White Sands Missile Range. I took pictures of soldiers and their families, just a few weeks before the fathers in my photos were to leave for Iraq. When I looked into the eyes of a young captain, the soldier who will lead the unit overseas, I almost cried. At 28 years old, he seemed so young. Talented to be sure, but so youthful. He reminded me of my great nephews who are serving right now.
It’s hard to make sense of it – sending these kids into battle. So while my family has been extremely fortunate, I do have a much greater appreciation for everyone who has worked, fought and even died for our country. I feel I’ve been somewhat naive about war and the importance of Veterans Day. I am very grateful to those who have served and are serving now. Thank you to all of our veterans. Thank you.
BY KRISTINE SANDRICK The Las Cruces Bulletin (11/13/09 – with a few updates.)