It is now Veterans Day 2014 and I am reusing this today. It’s from a couple of years ago now, but I remember what an impression it made on me at the time!
We have had a lot of changes since then! Now we live in Huntsville, AL. Ron has totally recovered from his treatment and side effects. It is all a distant memory. (This happened in Tyler, TX 11/11/10)
WORLD WAR II-POW
So I’ll start at the beginning. Today we went to our Prostate Cancer Support Group (sorry, they haven’t come up with a catchy name for it. That’s it in all its starkness.) Because the food was late being delivered, Dr. Barnett (the radiation oncologist) asked for all the veterans to raise their hands.
He then shared a short piece from a patient he has who was in WWII and was a prisoner of war of the Japanese. He was captured in the Phillipines, experienced the Batan Death March and ended up working in a factory as a prisoner in China. When he arrived there, he came across 4 other people from the same small town he was from in Wink, TX who had been captured from a variety of other locations. He felt that because of the fact that they were able to get together often after meals and at regular times during the day during the years they were there, they were all able to survive some horrendous experiences.
A veteran in our group told about fighting in Korea during the Korean War. He dealt with communications in the artillery but most of the time they were fighting the Chinese. He said the Chinese would come at them in waves. As one group of Chinese were mowed down with the U.S. sophisticated artillery, another wave of them would pour across the 38th parallel, pick the guns off the dead men and shoot at them until many of them were killed as well…and so on, and so on! One of the difficult memories he has is looking over the field that day and seeing hundreds and hundreds of dead Chinese everywhere!
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
Another story came from a man who was working with missiles in Huntsville, AL at the Redstone Arsenal when the Cuban Missile Crisis happened under John F. Kennedy. (I remember it well! I was a senior in high school and knew I was not even going to live to graduate from high school!) This man was a young married man at the time with two small children. Of course, he had to stay at work and be on alert.
Then his wife told her version of what happened. Since they lived so near to the arsenal as well as NASA, he told her that if the next level of alert was given where they had to evacuate, she was to travel the opposite way most people were going because it was AWAY from NASA and the missile base which would have been where the missiles would be headed. Of course, as it turned out that never did happen. They didn’t have to evacuate. But they had some very tense days while they waited.
WORLD WAR II
The final man who told his story was a man (now 80) whose father was a major under General Patton. This man’s father was exercising so hard (along with many others) to get in shape so they could kill the Germans…that he had a heart attack! He survived it, but was unable to go to Normandy.
It was so interesting to hear these men tell their stories. I felt like I was reliving parts of history through their eyes. Somehow, in a group of mostly men, with whom they shared a common challenge, fighting and surviving prostate cancer, they felt comfortable talking about a topic that they didn’t normally discuss. I, along with the few women in the group, feel privileged to have been able to listen in on the conversation.
By the time the stories were done, our food had arrived. But more importantly, I gained a new awareness and appreciation for the dedication and commitment of these men. Reminds me of a verse I’ve heard before: “Greater love has no man than this. That a man lay down his life for his friend.”
Obviously, the men we heard today didn’t die, but they put their lives on hold for a few years and certainly gave of themselves so that this nation could be free…not even knowing if we would be “friends”.
We are in their debt and are often oblivious!
originally written 11/12/10