Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dad Was A Veteran

Dad was a veteran. He fought from Pearl Harbor to the Philippines, re-upping again and again because he didn't want to leave his brothers behind. Unlike a lot of vets, he talked about the war. He talked about it enough to shape me, to make me realize how bloody evil war is. He told me about the guy who got his head blown off and the six feet that the guy's decapitated body walked before it collapsed. He told me about Japanese soldiers who strapped landmines to their bodies and threw themselves under tanks. He told me about rape, murder and cannibalism.
Dad was 100% disabled by government standards. He once showed me the paperwork that confirmed 60% of that disability was psychological. I can't believe that anyone could come out of a ground war like that without being psychologically damaged.
He also taught me - without meaning to - that there are no heroes in war. Soldiers can do heroic things. My dad did heroic things. He saved lives and I don't just mean here on the homefront. I knew a guy who owed my father his life. Dad pulled him from the burning wreckage of a plane. My father escaped after two weeks in a Japanese prison camp when he and two others overpowered guards and took their weapons. One of those two others died during the fight. The other took a different direction outside the walls and dad never knew what happened to him.
My dad also did evil things, stuff that I won't share here and stuff that was in no way unique to him. Accepted policy and procedure during wartime that you won't find written anywhere as well as some things that weren't so accepted. He told me two or three years before he died that if there was a Hell, he was going to it. That sort of thing was a rare admission from him.
People do what they feel they need to do in war. It brings out the worst and the best in people, in individuals. I don't vilify my father in my heart. He performed acts noble and vile. He was human in a nightmarish situation. And I understand that the things that he and his fellow soldiers did preserved our way of life here at home. 
I'd like people to educate themselves on what wars are really like so maybe we'll have less of them and we won't need to put human beings anywhere in the world through the meat grinder. I hope one day we see a Veterans Day where there are no veterans of war to thank because there haven't been any wars in a lifetime. 
In the meantime, my thanks to all our veterans for their incredible sacrifices.

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