I’m thankful for…
Although it’s difficult to fully understand the bravery that veterans possess and the depth of the impact they have had and continue to have on our country as a whole and each of us individually, I am flooded with thoughts of my own family members who served with heroic honor in our armed forces. My father served in the Air Force, one of his brother’s was a fearless Marine, and the other a Naval Commander. My father-in-law proudly served in the Navy, as did my husband Brian.
Today, my thoughts seem magnetically drawn to my mother’s Brother, Uncle Neal, who was drafted during the Korean War and sent to the front lines. Although he never talked about his time there to me when I was a kid, he did share a glimpse of the horror that he witnessed and experienced as a war-time soldier, one day a few years ago when I mustered up the courage to ask. It was a very brief, succinct conversation that lasted less than five minutes. He and I were with my mother at a gas station waiting for a pump. I had a sense of urgency to ask him to tell me about his experience because he was terminally ill. I had heard it from my mother years before, but a first-hand account brings a unique dimension that cannot be captured any other way.
He explained that his troop was ambushed, and somehow by the grace of God, he survived. He described seeing his comrades laying there looking like mannequins, and in fact, in his state of horror and shock, he thought they were mannequins, and couldn’t figure out what they were doing there. Then, all of a sudden it hit him…they were his brave allies who were forced to make the ultimate sacrifice.
That’s all he told me.
Later, I had the honor of reading some of the letters he wrote home to his Mom and Dad after this frightening event. The letters described how he was pulled to safety and never sent back to the front lines. He described the wonder of simple things like having breakfast, lunch and dinner, and playing cards to pass the time.
What strikes me the most about Uncle Neal, knowing that he had this kind of experience, is that he was ALWAYS positive and went out of his way to silently protect everyone he came in contact with, especially children. I can easily swear that there wasn’t one time that Uncle Neal didn’t answer “I never had it so good” when asked by anyone: “How are you?” And this quote is inscribed on his grave stone.
A heartfelt thank you, special uncle, my remarkable family members, and to all of the brave men and women who served, are serving now, and will serve in the future.
We owe you all a debt of gratitude.