This post was originally published six years ago today, and updated last year as well. But it’s still very relevant today. So once again I’ve updated it to reflect Veterans Day, 2022.
The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.
Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough. They have a unique understanding of the ways of the world that we who have not served cannot begin to understand. And so do their families, who go for long stretches of time without seeing their loved ones.
To all of those who have served or are still serving, we owe you a huge THANK YOU for the time and sacrifice you, and your families, have given, and are still giving, to this great nation. You leave home and family behind far too often to serve your country because that’s your duty and your chosen profession. You and your families are invaluable to this country, although sometimes we do not show it enough.
Those of us who only read about our service men and women who are in-country, with “boots on the ground” honestly do not comprehend what these brave men and women face on a daily basis. We cannot begin to understand with they go through, how they feel, how lonesome it can be for them being away from everything that is “home” for them. We cannot understand what it is like for the wives, husbands, children, and other family member who are apart from them so long, only being able to share events through email, text messaging, and hopefully FaceTime or Zoom calls.
My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.
My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.
My uncle also served in the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.
The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.
Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.
They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.
I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.
Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again. Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.
My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.
There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.
Conditions were bad back then. Conditions in foreign countries today can be bad as well. Our servicemen and women go on patrol, not knowing if there are IED’s, car bombs, or snipers waiting to take them out. Seemingly safe and quiet areas can suddenly become battlegrounds and killing fields. Many of these brave men and women come back seriously wounded, disfigured, or with severe cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which can require years of therapy to overcome. And there are still too many times when these brave men and women come back home in a flag-draped casket that arrives at Dover Air Force Base.
Recently a football player compared his being away from his family for games that were out of town, away from their home stadium. The comment drew many, many cries of outrage, and rightly so, and he later had to apologize. He spoke without thinking. Because he has no clue about what our military families go through, or what their loved ones go through who are away from them in foreign lands. And that’s a sad commentary on our thought processes today.
So today, let’s stop and thank a veteran for all of our freedoms that we hold so dear (or that we don’t even stop and think about at all because they’ve always been there). They give up a lot on a daily basis, and so do their families. Without them, our lives would not be what they are today.