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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Purple hearts and 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Veteran's day....formerly known as Armistice Day for World War I, the war which supposedly was to end all wars....Today as I went through my day, I noticed all of the veterans on the street. A Vietnam War Vet, a World War II vet who survived Pearl Harbor and people presently serving here. I know I probably saw a lot more who were veterans from the Korean Conflict and Gulf War I.

I am grateful to all those who serve, although I was stunned to hear an officer at Fort Hood say that the folks who were going to Afghanistan were going to protect the American Constitution......I don't believe that, especially since the original reason to go to Afghanistan was to rout the Taliban and to go after Osama bin Ladin. Nevertheless, I support the troops who are presently serving in the near east. You can support the troops even if you can't support the war.

My own family has a pretty strong military presence. My grandfather served in both World War I and in World War II. My father and his twin served in World War II. My nephew served in Germany in the 1980s, and my husband's cousin, even though he was Cuban, served in the Air force in Gulf I and is still in the service.

The purple heart you see in the top photograph is the one awarded to my uncle David, my father's mirror twin, posthumously. He was killed by a sharpshooter after taking an area in Okinawa. He was killed June 4, 1945. His death is one from which I don't think my father ever really recovered. War is hell.

Sometimes the living afterwards is hell too. I think about how after the Civil War soldiers missing jaws and limbs struggled along. I think of the wounded today who not too long ago would have perished, but because of our technology today, they have survived horrific wounds but now have to struggle with severe head injuries and loss of multiple limbs.

Yesterday, I listened to a program on prosthesis and how that the hook, which basically hasn't changed much since WWII is still the best option for being able to function (rather than for aesthetics) is what most people who survive the loss of a hand end up having. I was horrified to learn that often insurance companies don't cover prosthesis as they are considered "cosmetic."

I hope that our service people who are losing limbs are being provided with what they need. It would seem pretty awful if these men and women who serve wouldn't be provided with proper prosthesis after losing their appendages while on active duty. However, I also know that sometimes what is right, isn't what is given.

I think of the psychological effects that our service people are suffering or are going to be suffering from. I think of the trauma that their families go through. I think of the loss of valuable memories because mom or dad wasn't there for momentous occasions.


I also think of all the women who served and are serving. Today, while we often think of "servicemen" at least women are beginning to be recognized for their contribution. We have a long way to go on that score, but it is still better than what Eleanor Chapman Broberg, my father's first wife, and countless other women in service and who served as nurses received in earlier wars. Eleanor was a W.A.C. She is the person in this photograph which I think was taken in La Jolla or at one of the bases right after the war.

For most women who served in WWII, they were not recognized after the war. I had a friend who did some research on nurses who served on the fronts in WWII, and it was pretty sad as far as what little recognition they received.

Eleanor died perhaps four years after this picture was taken. She had had polio as a child and suffered heart attacks during a pregnancy. I'm sure that the cigarette she has in her hand didn't help, but she passed away in the 8Th month of her pregnancy dying in my father's arms.

I think of the pain and loss my father suffered from the loss of his wife and his twin. I think of the loss that families suffer today. I think of the good things that our service people are accomplishing, and I recognize the hard work of the Coast Guard which sometimes gets forgotten in the minds of the average American. For you all, I just say thank you. For us all, I hope that someday we can get over our human propensity to engage in war. Maybe just a little compassion and understanding would go a long way.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I am catching up on older posts I missed and this just touched my heart. I am sure you know that my brother was killed in Afghanistan shortly after veterans day. One of the things that has brought some comfort to our family is that he did pass rather than have to come home wheel chair bound or missing limbs. I know Dan would have been immensely unhappy in that state. I would prefer him to be alive but at what sacrifice to his physical state. We were not allowed open casket as he was killed in a suicide explosion while defending his base. I am fairly certain, based on information we have received, that it would be a very sorry state of living indeed. We were also thankful he was not tortured and did not suffer. I am sorry to leave such a long winded comment but this post just touched me so much. I am thankful for all our service people. May their families feel the love and support too.