I come from a long line of veterans. From the Revolutionary War forward. During the Civil War, I have ancestors who fought for the North, and one who fought for the South.
My maternal grandfather served in World War I. A farmer from Booneville, Mo., he signed his draft card with an X. He went on to serve his country from the trenches, and suffered breathing problems from the mustard gas.
Both my grandfather Kearney and his son (my father) served in World War II. My grandfather went in at the age of 53. According to his registration card, he lived at 41st and Woodland in Kansas City, Mo. His son, Frank, was 24 and lived at 34th and Woodland.
Grandpa Kearney never talked about his service; my dad rarely did.
What I do know is my father served in the South Pacific; he took a mortar to his chest, and he was cut off behind enemy lines. He said the “headhunters” took him in, and they ate monkey meat and assorted other creatures. Until the day he died , he would complain of the smell of rotten meat, and he would dive to the floor when there were loud noises.
It was nothing to come home from school and find the porch door wired to “pop” if someone tried to open it, and he placed barricades around our yard’s perimeter, usually wooden planks with nails, buried nails up. At the time, that didn’t seem abnormal.
His favorite musician was Johnny Cash, and his favorite song was “Drunken Ira Hayes.” When the folks would talk about dad’s behavior, the men would just shake their heads and say dad had “gone native” and had left a part of himself behind. The word post traumatic stress disorder had not been discovered yet, and veterans were just supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and move forward.
My brother Mike fought in Vietnam. Mike had been born while our father was overseas. He was an infant when his dad left, and four when his dad returned. Mike was in his late 20’s when he was drafted. One of the few times I saw my father cry was when Mike left to go to Fort Benjamin in Indiana. Dad cried like a baby.
My brother did a tour of Vietnam, and he returned to a country divided. There were no ticker tape parades or “thank you for your service.” Mike also suffered the effects of war and left part of himself behind. He was angry, and he suffered from the effects of Agent Orange.
It’s almost automatic for people to smile and say “thank you for your service,” to our veterans. And that’s good. But the price many of our service people pay — and the effects on their family’s – is so much more than a mere “thank you for your service.”
There are no words to adequately express the gratitude Americans should feel towards those who protect our country.
Yet, it’s the only words we have —
Thank you for your service.
Thanks for keeping us free.
Veterans deserve honor on every day.
Thanks to veterans, their families for our continued freedom