"Welcome to my blog space. I believe that God has carefully placed gems in our paths to fill our days with joy. The challenge for us is to take the time to notice them. My desire is to share the gems in my life so that, hopefully, you will see the ones He's placed in yours. I hope what you read here will be worth your time and you'll want to return often." - Cathy

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

International Incidents - Part Two

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
The 1st Infantry Division, officially nicknamed The Big Red One, is the oldest division in the United States Army. It has seen continuous service since its organization in 1917, serving in every war since World War I. It is currently based at Fort Riley, Kansas.
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.

Larry, Frank, and John
Friends from Vietnam
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.
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


  1. War tramples on us all in one way or another. May we find healing among friends.

    1. Amen! I've seen that work for these veterans when they gather and know that the people in the group will understand their emotions and what they've experienced.

  2. Great post Cathy! I was in junior high school at the end of Vietnam and never really understood what was going on there. I know we owe a debt of gratitude to our men who gave so much in that war. My friend, Nino Pecoraro, is set to publish his book about his experiences in Nam in March of 2012. You can see excerpts at http://letterstobrian.tumblr.com/.

    1. Thanks, Debbie! I'll check this book out. It might be something my hubby and his friends would like to read. The Vietnam war period was a horrible time for our country and our Veterans. I find that those vets are just now able to tell their stories. Thanks for the heads-up.