To Honor All Veterans:
Today, I am thinking of my father, Ken Culbreth, who served in the Navy in Guam-at the end of World War II, I later helped him write a book about his experienes there along with collections of stories about their experiences in the Pacific Theater during that time. My father passed away in August of 2014. It remains difficult to be unable to ask him to tell me more about his experiences. There are so many friends and family who have served our county. Among them, my Uncle John Gardner, who fought through the worst of World War II from N. Africa to Germany.my Uncle Harold Garland who was in England during WorldWar II, my Uncle Jack Garland who served in Hawaii during World War II. There were those who served in Korea during the early 1950’s.Then there are all of my friends and family who fought in Viet Nam during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. I think of my husband, who served in Germany and many of the young men of the Post-Viet Nam Era who served around the world during that time.
I would like to honor my Great Aunt Bettie Rayburn Bryant, one of the first WAC’s to retire with more than twenty-two years service and her husband Howard Bryant who met and married her while in Germany right after World War II. So often the women who have served our country in many capacities are ignored. I inherited my Aunt Bettie and Uncle Howards Photographs , Journals and Memory Books of their time in the sevice and was enlightened to the vast roles women have played in protecting our country and supporting our troops. Included in her memiors were [hotographs that she took of Dachau Death Camp near Hamburg, Germany when the remains of the camp still stood. A sign ouside a gate warns people not to trespass, that a memorial to all who died here will be erected in ther memory.
There are those who kept our country safe during the “Cold War” era, and those who have fought for our country in recent years from Iraq to Afghanstan and beyond, and continue to do so today. Many members of our Armed Services have served right here at home. Many have served during “peace times” at our Miliary Bases around the world. I could not possibly mention all of the places these Americans have been, what they have risked, what they have lost or come home to live with. All I can do is say, “Thank you!” We are here because you were there. Bless you all!
I would like to share one personal experience that occured in my younger days.
My mother’s sister, (my Aunt Phyllis’s husband), John Gardner, didn’t want to talk about his days in World War II. I had heard my dad’s stories about his days in Guam when the worst of the war was over and I couldn’t understand why my beloved “Uncle John” wouldn’t talk about his Army days during that time with me. One day, when I was in college, he took me by the arm and lead me to his back porch, motioning for me to sit down.
I saw the moisture in his eyes as he told me of fighting seven major battles and campaigns from North Africa to Germany, and showed me the silver arrows, gold stars and Campaign records to prove it. He told me about Gen. Patton riding in the tank that he drove, of having to pick up enough pieces of his friends to constitute “bodies” when the tanks in front and in back of him were blown up by the enemy. He told me of seeing Mussolini and his mistress hanging (upside down, I believe) when they drove one of the first tanks into a liberated Rome.
There were more gentle memories like seeing the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” , the once lovely country side of the lands they liberated, and so much more. Of course, by then I was crying, begging him to forgive me for opening up his wounds. He just put his strong, weathered arms around me, and quietly said ,”That’s alright, I guess I needed to get it out some time”-he took a deep breath and turned my head to look into my reddened eyes and dried a tear from my cheek. “Just don’t ever ask me to speak of this again,” he whispered as I nodded and mumbled, “OK.”
I kept my word. I was humiliated that I had opened those wounds that he had kept private for so long, yet I have always been proud that he chose me to finally open that box of unspeakable pain with. Though his widow has shared his Campaign Records and showed me the box filled with Silver Arrows and Gold Stars several times, I have always felt great honor in both his sacrifice and strength in sharing his story with me. He will always convey the meaning of “Hero” in my mind.
I ask you to join me in, again, remembering that if these brave heros had not been there, with lives and dreams in constant danger, we, the Americans who enjoy our freedom today, would not be here. If you get a chance, volunteer at a Veteran Hospital or Home. Serve meals at Centers for our Veterans, listen to their stories, or respectfully remember that they may not wish to speak of the horrors they witnessed. Never forget the sacrifices so many have made. Lastly remember the words of our National Anthem as we honor our Military, not just today but every day-while thinking of the words of our National Anthem, “Oh, say, will that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o’r the land of the free and the home of the brave!”