Silent Heroes All Around Us
They are all around us. We look the same. We work with them. They attend our churches. We live in their neighborhoods. Our circle of friends includes them. They are both male and female. They are Democrats and Republicans.
They are the bold and brave folks who have served or are serving our country in the military.
Silent heroes. My heroes. All around us.
As a kid, I was unaware of these heroes surrounding me. I saw farmers, mechanics, car salesmen, auto parts managers, truck drivers, teachers, and factory workers. I did not see everyday people who gave prime years of their lives to fight for my freedom. They left moms, dads, girlfriends, wives, and children to fight for me. They left as kids and came back grownup too early. Some came back as alcoholics or drug addicts. Sadly, some did not come back at all.
Without them and the sacrifices they made, German could be our native tongue today. Can you say, “Danke mein Gott?”
None of the heroes who surrounded me ever talked openly of their experiences. Most times, I never knew they even fought in the war until I read their obituaries. A few examples are;
He fought in the Korean Conflict as a combat engineer for the Air Force.
He took part in the Normandy invasion. He landed in water eight feet deep. His mission was to take a bridge and keep the Germans from crossing.
He received two purple hearts.
He took part in the Battle of the Bulge. A friend sent him a Christmas card and it did not arrive until his birthday, April 15. It was the best birthday present ever.
He was a survivor of the Bataan Death March.
The list goes on and on. I marvel at these silent heroes.
They served us as truck drivers, messengers, airplane and helicopter pilots, technical engineers, and ambulance drivers just to name a few. They are my silent heores.
I saw firsthand examples of how serving affected these heroes. I saw my brother-in-law leave his pregnant wife to serve in Korea. While there, my sister gave birth to a son. My brother-in-law saw his son for the first time when he was over a year old. My brother-in-law is my silent hero.
I saw my cousins and many others leave home to serve in Viet Nam or Iraq. Sometimes, even when they returned, it took years for them to get back to normal. My cousins are my silent heroes.
In 1970, my draft number would have been 131, a sure shot at being drafted for Viet Nam. Fortunately, I was fifteen. In 1973, the year I was eligible, they abolished the draft. I shudder to think how my life course would have changed if they had drafted me.
My wife and I experienced a tremendous emotional low when told the army was deploying our son to Liberia. When that did not happen, later they informed us he was being deployed to the Middle East. Thank God it never happened, but it devastated us with just the thought of this happening. My son is my silent hero.
My grandparents had four sons serving at the same time on two different continents during World War Two. Imagine that! And this was before e-mail, text, or FaceTime. I believe they would have had to commit me if I had four in harm’s way at one time. My uncles are my silent heroes.
My dad served in Okinawa. He was a man of few words. He told me little of his experiences while there. Amazing to me, his only complaint was having to serve on kp duty. He said he had peeled more potatoes than I would ever eat in a lifetime. He showed me how he did it. Man, he was fast. I noticed it did not bother him when he left a few peels on the potato. He did not show the same love and care mom did when she peeled hers. We let Mom peel the potatoes at our house.
Dads prized possession from the war was a Japanese gun he brought back from Okinawa. It sat in the corner of our closet for years. One day, he said to me, “Do you want to shoot my Japanese gun?”
“Yes sir,” I proclaimed. This was any young boy’s dream!
Dad wasn’t sure the gun was safe for us to shoot. We placed a tire on the ground and jammed the gun in that tire. Dad tied a string around the trigger. We stood behind a tree. My heart raced as he pulled the string. BOOM! It was loud. Peering around the trunk of that tree as anxious as meerkats, Dad and I saw a huge hole in the tree where we aimed the gun. It worked! We tested it a time or two more before Dad declared the gun safe. It became a gun he and I shared when we went deer hunting. It was his way of turning a negative time in his life into a positive, shared with his son. Years later, while he was in a hospital suffering from a stroke, drug thugs broke into our house and stole that gun. Losing the gun was tough, but the thugs could never steal this memorable moment spent with my dad, etched permanently in my memory. My Dad is my number one silent hero.
This Memorial Day, I can think of no proper words for me to even mutter that would come close to showing the proper gratitude for those who protect my freedoms, and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. We must never forget them. So, please join me in saying…
Thank God for Silent Heroes.