Before I set out to write an article for the Memorial Day Holiday, I thought long and hard about how I, a clueless civilian, could pay the proper respect to and honor to our U.S Veterans... past, present, and future.
After all, I thought, it would seem rather impertinent of me to assume that I could know what it means to live through years of war experiences. How could I describe the feeling of being intensely aware that death snapped at my heels, with every turn and step I took, and slithered all around me, whispering to me with every soldier that was lost, and wrapped around my very own hands, administered dutifully through the weapons that I had been issued to 'subdue' my enemy, in order to preserve my life and the lives of the soldiers that stood beside me?
I felt hugely inadequate and with this realization, I set out to elicit a 'soldier's story' from a Veteran friend of mine. I gave him a voice recorder, asked him to find a quiet place, and to record some of his thoughts and experiences as a war Veteran. I also wanted to hear his thoughts about how he had been treated upon returning home.
After 4 days, I asked my friend if he was ready to return the recorder to me so that I could listen to and transcribe his story for my article. My friend bowed his head and told me in a quiet voice that the recorder was empty. He told me that as much as he would have liked to help me with his valuable contribution, when he turned on the recorder, he found himself paralyzed and at a loss for words that would accurately and definitively relate his feelings and experiences in a way that would paint an accurate picture for those of us who had never lived them.
There were a couple of points that he did make, as we discussed his disappointment at not being able to verbalize his wartime experience, and I would like to share them:
- Living World War II Veterans soon will be extinct and their voices will be heard only though their stories and memories that have been captured by the lucky people that were there to hear them. If you have a friend or loved one who is a Veteran of World War II, reach out to them, honor them by asking for and listening to their stories. Put your arms around them, thank them, and make sure that they realize how much you respect them for the sacrifices that they made, and for the horrors that they lived daily in order to preserve our freedom and security.
- While Memorial Day is also a day for families to come together for barbecues, beach visits, and picnics, don't let these activities overshadow the true reason that Memorial Day was proclaimed a national holiday in the first place... to honor our fallen soldiers, to preserve their legacy, and to respect the ultimate sacrifices that were made.
- If you know a Veteran, go visit them. Shake their hand, embrace them, and give them your respectful 'Thank You.' If you see a Veteran or 'active duty' soldier in your daily walk of life, stop and take the time, whether you know them or not, to offer up a grateful nod to their service to our country and it's citizens. We sometimes forget how much these simple gestures could mean to someone who might be having difficulty returning to civilian life after having lived through these horrific experiences, or to a soldier who is still out there struggling and sacrificing on our behalf.
The photo above is included, respectfully, to say 'Thank You' to the brave and honorable Veterans that I have the pleasure of working side by side with every day at my brokerage, Keller Williams Realty of Manatee.
To me, the fact that my voice recorder was empty when my friend returned it to me, despite his intense desire to share what he knows about war and its atrocities, spoke volumes to me. Some experiences in life are so vividly unique that there really aren't words to characterize them.
I hear you, my friend... I hear you.
~ authored by Wendy Herndon