From May 1996
It’s funny how the seemingly most insignificant things can change the way you perceive something much more profound.
It’s May, a month which ends with the holiday of Memorial Day. I had never really thought a lot about this day until a minor event that happened a few years ago. As one who came of age in an era when there was no war, draft or even active draft registration, I never really thought much about what this day means to veterans. My father was also of an age where he was not needed in any war, so there weren’t any war stories floating around our house. While I appreciated those who had served, it was always a fairly shallow appreciation.
Then one day a couple of summers ago, an older man stopped in to buy a subscription. I don’t know how we got to talking about it, but he eventually pointed out his belt buckle with what he called “my B-17” on it. Now, this was not some old tractor that he worked on in the comfort of his garage; this was an airplane which he flew during World War II, thousands of feet above the earth in enemy territory with people shooting at him. We talked about the movie “Memphis Belle,” which was popular at that time and depicted situations similar to those he had encountered. I thanked him for the purchase and he headed back down the road.
Later, I got to thinking about how this man had been through situations with his plane that would scare most of us to death and still thought enough of the plane that carried him through it all safely and back to his farm, just as many of us think of an old tractor that we spent thousands of hours on, paying off the mortgage. Except there was no one shooting at us.
I later started pondering all the hopes and plans of all those farm boys who went off to war. The kid who set off for France with the promise from his dad that as soon as he was back home, they would go look at one of those new Waterloo Boys. There were probably many who boarded a ship headed for Europe or the Pacific thinking about how they were going to trade off that old “A” for one of the new styled ones when they got home. Or there was the soldier who walked through Korea, thinking about how he was going to trade off that old “A” for one of those new model 60s with power steering and live PTO when he got home. Then there was he who swore he would never complain about that stupid 2010 again if God would just get him out of that jungle safely and back to the cornfield. And, of course, there were those who never made it home to see their dreams come true…whether those dreams came in green paint or not.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that now on Memorial Day, I don’t just think about what veterans gave but also what they gave up.