Veterans Day is nearly upon us and before we can blink it will be Thanksgiving.
It’s a busy time of year for everyone, but it’s also a perfect time to reflect, be grateful and give thanks.
My classmates and I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit, via Skype and in person, with two amazing authors who are also Iraq war veterans. Their insight was invaluable as we prepared to write stories about them for a class assignment. Their insight has also had an effect on how each of us think of veterans, wars and how to sincerely thank them.
We met two different veterans. One a former U.S. Army captain who got a degree from Wake Forest University and the other a graduate of Vassar College and former United States Marine Corps Officer. Matt Gallagher and Benjamin Busch share an incredible gift for writing. They use this gift to portray their experiences to those of us who can’t imagine what they’ve seen and done. This gift of expression may be what keeps them from suffering the long term effects that wars often produce.
NPR recently featured a story of a veteran in Connecticut who found himself unable to cope. Despite his family’s efforts and medical interventions, he committed suicide. His wife said that he was never able to talk of his experience. In addition to his wife, he also left behind four children.
As I considered how to approach this blog, I thought about my own experience. My father was a WW II veteran. As a child my mother would caution me, If I got too inquisitive, that my dad never talked about the war. I loved seeing fireworks, but never really understood why my dad could rarely be coerced into taking me.
At some point after I had left home, something started to change. My parents started to travel the world, going to war reunions. My dad had always enjoyed writing, but he started getting stories and poems published in books and giving me multiple copies. He built a “shrine” in the basement, which seemed a little weird, but we were all supportive. It seemed the flood gates had opened.
Was it coincidence that when I opened one of my dad’s war books this morning to look up some stories an article fell out that he had submitted to The Chicago Sun on June7,1944? I don’t really believe in coincidence.
I’m so grateful that my dad had the gift of expression. I truly believe that the best gift that you can give a veteran is your ears. Take some time to listen and give thanks.