Connie Little

VETERANS DAY, 1998

Veterans’ Day – What does that mean? A day for sales at the local mall: maybe a parade of fire trucks, or only a group of soldiers?

When I celebrate Veterans’ Day, I think about each man and woman and the stories behind them:

My father-in-law, a marine in WWII, on Iwo Jima as the flag was raised; the struggle he had that we didn’t see, the cancer we did see. The young nurse who held a young boys hand as he lay dying, who fell in love with the soldier who never came back from patrol; the marine whose first patrol was to carry a corpse down the steep mountains in Vietnam.

The boy who didn’t have to go, a Mennonite who wanted to do the right thing, became a man in 3rd recon. I know a soldier who came home from Nam to see his new baby, then went back, not knowing if he would ever see his family again; he was lucky. Another soldier was killed leaving his wife and 2 children, his best friend, a vet, left to comfort the family. Another family member who was a marine, early in Vietnam: he works too hard and too long; is he trying to forget?

How do you live with the fact that your best friend in the bush, took the bullets that were meant for you; then watch him die in your arms and wish it was you instead?

What about the men and women who are angry, lonely, wishing it would have gone different? What about the pain – both physical and mental? How many of them have gone through jobs, relationships, cancer, PTSD, drugs, alcohol, Agent orange, heart and lung problems, and denial of all these?

What do I say to all these Veterans? How do I act? How can I help? I say I understand. I act myself, full of honesty and love. I help by being there always.

My best friend is a Vietnam Veteran. Veterans’ Day is everyday to me and his stories are with me always. I celebrate Veterans’ Day with honor to him, and to all who have been there.