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.
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: