Veterans Day 2005

No other country in the history of the modern world has so honorably offered their sons and daughters for freedom like the United States of America. Today, Veterans Day, please say a prayer for those who have sacrificed not only in service to their country but to provide and guard your liberties. Thank your veterans, both young and old, who served in the Great War, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, both Iraq wars and every battle, war, and skirmish before and in between and in the present for their courage, their nobility, their youth and their sacrifice.

It is their blood and sweat and sacrIfice that keeps us comfortably wrapped in our security blanket of freedom.

05hgadams.jpg

Harry G Adams, Aviation Machinists Mate 2nd Class, Corsair Squadron of the USS Boxer in the Pacific Theater, WWII.

The photo above was taken at the National World War II Memorial Dedication Weekend held in DC last year. I urge you all to take a few minutes of your day today and read Bill of INDC Journal’s absolutely excellent coverage of that event. Part One is here, part Two is here.

I chose that photo because Mr. Adams countenance, his eyes especially, remind me of a war hero, a veteran, I once knew for a few fleeting moments of my life and who is the subject of my Veterans Day post from last year, a small tribute to a war hero:

Thank You, Veterans (Posted November 11, 2004)

Every neighborhood has a house that kids are afraid of. There’s always one property in particular that little kid rumors are bandied about like candy. The woman that lives in that house is a witch! The last little kid that went into Mr. So and So’s yard never came out! I’ve seen dead animals in their yard! In my old neighborhood it was the house on the corner across the street from my house. The house with the one-legged man.

None of us kids really knew why we were afraid of the house with the one legged man. The rumors just said that he was dangerous even though the house always looked pristine. It certainly didnt look haunted or anything like that. It was always well maintained. But the one-legged man was a mystery to us.

He rarely came out of the house and when he did, the location of the house and the landscaping around it always made it look like some shadowy excursion was taking place. We would ride our bikes on the opposite side of the street when passing the place and never, ever, took cover under the shade of the three huge black olive trees he had along the side of the yard. That house and yard were off limits according to every single kid in the neighborhood.

The specualtion about the man and his missing leg was rampant among us. He lost his leg after that killing spree he went on. No, it was when he was chopping up that last little kid that went into his yard that the chainsaw slipped and took his leg right off! Not once, in the years that he lived in that house did we ever go Trick or Treating at that house. We were terrified of razor blades in apples and poison in the candy. We were kids, we didnt know any better.

I must have been about 14 or so when the one-legged man sold the haunted house and moved away. I remember the big moving truck in front of his house and all the old furniture they had been loading into it all day. Everything looked like antiques. He was there directing the moving men while walking around on his prosthetic leg and occassionaly pointing to something or other with one of his crutches. I remember feeling relieved, now we could poach the fruit from the trees and ride our bikes close to that yard and sit under the black olives eating his mangos.

There was one thing about the house that always struck me as odd. Every holiday it flew a big American flag. Fourth of July’s, Memorial days, President’s days. I always found it kind of odd that a haunted house should fly the flag like that. Witches and warlocks and chain saw wielding mass murderers weren’t supposed to be patriotic.

That day he was moving, as I sat out in the porch with my friends, the last direction he gave to the movers was to take down his flag. And they did and when they were about to roll it up around the flagpole to toss it in the moving van the one-legged man almost went into a frenzy. He yelled at the mover and hobbled up to him and swiped the flag and pole away from him and then carefully removed it from the pole. He threw the pole in the moving truck and stood there, in front of his house, and neatly folded his flag.

The one-legged man tucked the folded flag under his arm, ambled around the house and yard for one last look then got in his station wagon and drove away.

A few minutes after he’d gone, we hopped on our bikes and went straight to that property. We climbed the fence, knocked down a few avocadoes and looked into every one of the windows. There was nothing particularly scary about the inside of the home. It just looked like any other old house to me. It was right then and there that I knew we had been fools. There had never been anything dangerous about the old one-legged man. He was just an old one-legged man. I felt bad we had ignored him. I felt bad we had never Trick or Treated at his house. For all I knew that man had tons and tons of candy waiting for us on Halloween and noone ever showed. How sad, I thought.

When I was about 20 or so, I was coming out of a supermarket and as I turned to head towards my car there heading right for me was a familiar figure with one leg and crutches. It was the old one-legged man! The one we’d been scared of all our childhood days. The one I saw move away with his flag under his arm. I stopped in front of him and he looked up at me. He had the kindest eyes I’d ever seen in my life.

“Excuse me, sir,” I said. “Did you used to live in Grapeland Heights? Off of 19th?”

His blue eyes sparkled. He had recognized me. “Are you the boy that lived in that pretty house across the street?”

“Yessir. That’s me.”

“All grown up now, huh?”

We chit chatted for a few seconds about the old neighborhood and how us kids were scared of him because we thought he was a bogeyman and he laughed. I felt I needed to make it up to him so I offered to help him with his groceries and he thanked me, said that wasn’t necessary. I insisted.

I pushed the grocery cart for him that day at the store while he told me about his life. He’d lost a son in Vietnam. His wife had passed just before I had moved into the neighborhood. He had lost his leg to a mortar attack in Korea. He was an honest to goodness decorated war hero. A Veteran of the United States Army.

We said our goodbyes in the parking lot of the supermarket. I helped him get into his car and stood there as he drove away. I could have learned so much from that man during my childhood. Had I just taken the time and had the courage to one day knock on his door and offer to mow his lawn or wash his car I would have made friends with a good man, a war hero. Now, I cant even remember his name.

I woke up early this morning, showered, threw on my clothes and right before I left my house, I unfolded my flag, clipped it to the pole, and hoisted it in his honor. For the one-legged Veteran I lived across the street from all those years and yet knew for only a few moments.

I will never forget him.

I never got to thank him for giving what he gave so that I may ride bike freely about his neighborhood. I never got to thank him for giving his son and his leg for this country that has given me everything.

My flag flies for him today, an American Veteran, and for every single one of his brothers and sisters in arms. Thank you, Veterans, for your service and your sacrifice.

More Vetreans Day tributes:

The Tears of Things
The 26th Parallel
El Cafe Cubano
Baldilocks
Captain’s Quarters
Firepower Forward
Dean Esmay
LaShawn Barber
Michelle Malkin
The Laughing Wolf
Sgt Hook
TacJammer
Winds of Change
It Comes in Pints

12 thoughts on “Veterans Day 2005”

  1. Val,
    Thanks for your tribute to our brave men and women in the military. We should keep in mind that there are many of them deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan who need to know that we support them. There are many ways of showing our support. anysoldier.com is an excellent site;and there are many others. Just a few lines expressing gratitude and support makes a difference.
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again. Who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause. Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” T. Roosevelt

  2. Still a tear-jerker. Val you have such a rare gift for writing about human relationships. You’ve touched thousands of lives with this story. The old one-legged man will forever live on in this way, a gift he had never anticipated. Thousands think of him on this day now.

  3. Val,
    Great story, and a great tribute to one of our country’s many heroes.
    On a very personal level, I’m really glad you reprinted it, because last year, at this time, I didn’t know that something called Babalublog.com existed, so obviously, I missed reading it then.
    Folks, I urge each and every one of you to find someone who serves in the U.S. Armed Forces today, shake their hand and express your thanks to them. If all you can do is send an e-mail to a serviceman (or woman!) overseas, by all means do that.
    They deserve it, and more.
    And don’t limit your sense of appreciation to this one day of the year. We can –and should– express our support to them on an ongoing basis, because they are fighting for us each and every day.
    God Bless America and its Armed Forces!
    Julio

  4. On Veterans’ Day I always remember the American soldiers who fought in the Spanish-Cuban-American War that gave Cuba its independence from Spanish colinal cruelty and despotism.
    I also remember the hundreds of American volunteers that fought and died for Cuban independence as part of the expeditions of Narciso Lopez (1850 and 1851), the American gun runners of the Virginius who were massacred by the Spaniards, and the many others, like Henry Reeve and Frederick Funston, who fought for Cuban independence. Many of them lie in unmarked graves in Cuba.

  5. “.. to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic…”

    While I spent a peaceful night sleeping in the comfort of home, rising early to work at home, then prepare to fly to New York City for the Pajamas Media launch, I thought about the people who’re helping to keep me free and safe.
    Four years ago…

  6. Val, thanks so much for taking the time to remind everyone what this day is about. It seems as though unless you know a veteran, the holiday meant to honor those who fight for our freedom is simply a 3-day weekend. My father is a Vietnam veteran. He has agent orange, flash backs, the whole nine yards; the running joke in our family is that it’s easier to list what’s NOT wrong with him, and the best part about him, is that if you ask him whether or not he would fight for his country again, his answer is always, ‘HELL YEAH!’
    thanks dad!

  7. Marines go on third Iraq tour

    Sylvia Moreno writes in The Washington Post about Lance Cpl. Marty G. Mortenson, who was killed during his third tour by a roadside bomb:
    He had spent his 20th, 21st and 22nd birthdays in Iraq. Before he left on his last tour, he told a friend in Califor

  8. Last year I went to photograph a “time-line event” at a fort in Delaware and while there I meet a man named Forrest Guth, who is a survivor of the original “Band of Brothers.”
    A little earlier in the year, while I visited the “Iwo Jima Monument” in the Washington DC area, I met a man who had been an early battle casualty on that Pacific island. I saw him wearing a hat and insignia that identified him as such, so I approached him and spent nearly two hours chatting with him about his experiences and watching him deal with the public as a volunteer at the site. More recently, he was featured in a documentary broadcast by the History Channel about a visit to the island by a group of WWII veterans.
    And one of my dearest neighbors served for nearly a year aboard a WWII supply ship that was hit by kamikaze planes not once, but twice –and survived both attacks. Once, my neighbor had been taking a shower in the ship’s innards and he had had to run and man a machine gun against the Japanese attackers, while wearing nothing but a helmet and a towel wrapped around his waist. He laughs about the experience now, but I’m sure it must have been scary back then.
    These three men are real American heroes, and I salute them all. Wonderful examples of what it takes to make the U.S. what it is today!
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Julio

  9. Thanks to our wonderful Veterans (in capitals, on purpose) we can all gather here in the cybersphere and “speak” our piece.

    And now I’m going to remember and honor some of the Veterans who have touched my life, and who unfortunately are no longer with us…

    -My late and great father in law, Carroll Lamon Sheppard, USN – carrier Lake Champlain, CV-39 – 1944-1945

    -My good friend and colleague John William English, US 84th Infantry Division (“The Railsplitters”) – 1943-1945

    -My high-school chum, Armando Alejandre Jr. – US Army, Vietnam war

    -And the heroes of the Alabama Air National Guard, whom I never had the privilege to meet, and who gave all trying to cover their Brigade 2506 brothers on the ground, April 1961

    “Sed miles, sed pro patria.”

    I love them all.

Comments are closed.