It’s Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been watching some old classic WWII movies, and thinking about “the great generation”. My mom had 4 siblings, and my dad was the 10th of 12. So I had uncles all over WWII.
i had an uncle who survived Pearl Harbor and one at the Battle of the Bulge. Uncle Don had the bow shot off of his ship in the Pacific. He and his surviving shipmates had to fashion a makeshift bow from wood, so that they could limp up into a river. Uncle John lost an eye in a German ambush in which the rest of his squad was killed. He had terrible nightmares in times of stress. Uncle LeRoy suffered recurring bouts of malaria throughout his life, contracted when he served with the corps of engineers in the tropics.
My dad was a pilot. After serving as a flight instructor, he was sent to the Pacific. He told me that he once dinged MacArthur’s plane, because it was parked too close and he was given the signal to take off. I know he doused his mosquito net with pesticide every night, for fear of malaria and yellow fever. I know he was very distressed by the condition of former POWs he had to fly back to Hawaii after the war was over. But I don’t know much else.
That was typical of the veterans of WWII. They may have seen terrible things, but they didn’t talk about it. They sucked it up. They didn’t ask for help. They struggled with their demons alone. Some of my uncles, I don’t have a single idea what they did during the war. The little bits I’ve already told you came like pulling teeth.
Having PTSD myself, I feel feel for our war veterans – all of them, from all of the wars. They have all seen and experienced things that shouldn’t be seen. And most have suffered the emotional fallout alone and unaided. It’s easy for people to feel sympathy for a wound they can see. The hurts you can’t see are harder to believe in. They hurt just as much. And it causes even more pain when that hurt is dismissed or made light of. We need to do better for our veterans. We ask them to face danger and horror on our behalf. The very least we can do is help them deal with the consequences. No one should have to suffer in silence, or feel ashamed to ask for help. And they certainly shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get care when they do ask for help. They gave up a lot for us. Let’s give them our gratitude and our support.
OK, off of my soap box now. Except for one last thing. If someone you know is struggling with loss this Memorial Day, tell them you remember. It won’t make them sadder. Trust me, they think about it all the time. Tell them you remember, so they won’t feel alone. Grief can be a lonely place to live. Monkey!