Welcome to Part Two of “International Incidents.” Moving from the focus on my international encounters in Part One, I’ll introduce you to some real heroes this week.
|First Infantry Division Patch|
My husband served with The Big Red One in Vietnam and we attended the 94th Anniversary Reunion in Memphis, TN the first week in August. We were in the company of 750 First Infantry Division veterans, active duty soldiers, and family members.
My husband and two buddies who served together in Vietnam
have kept up with each other over the years. Before they started meeting and
talking about their time in Vietnam, the subject was taboo. I’m finding this is
the case with most veterans of that war.
Attending these reunions brings healing.
|Larry, Frank, and John|
Friends from Vietnam
The organizing committee offered excursions to points of interest in the Memphis area. We chose to visit the Mud Island Museum of the Lower Mississippi. There were two busloads of reunion attendees, all identified by name badges.
I took a break at the end of one section of the museum and was soon joined by a veteran from our group. Tom* and I started out with pleasantries and moved to the “Where are you from?” question. When he found out I was from North Carolina, he asked me how far I lived from Charlotte. I told him and then he shared part of his story.
He had a buddy named Livingston in Vietnam. When Tom left to go home, Livingston hugged him and begged him not to leave him there. Tom had no choice but to leave. He hadn’t been home long when he found out Livingston was killed in action. Tom thought about finding Livingston’s parents in Charlotte, NC and telling them what a good friend and soldier he was. He never followed through on that thought and now, forty plus years later, he is burdened with guilt because of his inaction.
I met two veterans traveling with their service dogs as a result of war injuries. Both of the dogs had on cute little red vests that were embroidered with “Service Dog.” The veteran-owners had sewn the Big Red One patch on each side of the vest. Regardless of how their lives were dramatically changed by war, they were proud to be counted among the First Infantry Division survivors.
There were eight World War II vets in attendance along with their families. They looked like stereotypical grandpas, but their stories, though similar, are anything but typical. Young men from farms and cities, with little or no battle training, most never away from home before, leaving crying girlfriends waving from the dock as they boarded ships that would take them to unknown lands. Once at their destinations, they encountered the horrors of war. There was no way to prepare themselves for such as this.
I learned from these survivors that the ravages of war go far beyond the human casualties that are tallied and listed daily. These men and women come home with baggage they learn to live with but rarely completely get rid of. Some of their wounds can’t be seen from the outside and those prove to be harder to overcome than those you can see.
All gave some. Some gave all. I am thankful for the contribution of each one and for the freedoms they bought for me.
Make it a joy-filled day-
* Name changed
* Name changed