Friday, November 11, 2016
Veterans Day is supposed to be a holiday wherein we honor our veterans. I’m going to name a few that matter to me. Maybe you’ll read the names, as well as the bits of information I give, and be spurred to give your own version of thanks to those in your life who deserve similar recognition.
I’ll start with a couple of veterans who are no longer alive.
Tom Sullivan was my father. He served in the Navy, during the Korean conflict, aboard the USS Mindoro, an aircraft carrier. He was an enlisted man who didn’t see action in combat areas, so far as I know, but he was damned proud of his service and he kept a framed copy of his honorable discharge hanging on a wall for the rest of his life. He earned a couple of medals and received a partial disability, for which he got a check from his government every month. It wasn’t much monetarily, but it was a reminder that he had lost something for his country - and that the loss was at least remembered and appreciated.
Later, I had a stepfather. He was an Army veteran of World War II. Bill MacDonald served in Italy and suffered greatly. He had a partial hearing loss from the big guns. His toes were frozen and frostbitten, from weeks in a cold and muddy encampment, while his unit tried to capture a German-held hill. He took shrapnel that left permanent scars. Awarded a purple heart and a bronze star, he was sent home with what was then known as “battle fatigue” – now renamed “post-traumatic stress syndrome” - and he thought it was just a polite term for cowardice, God bless him. Despite his unquestionable bravery, he believed people might view him as having shirked his duty in some way. He carried that psychological burden with him for years. What a damnable shame.
Others who have gone to their rest include: Bill Purin, my father-in-law, a Coast Guard vet with a great sense of humor who raised - along with his wife, Eleanor - four of the nicest and most intelligent people I know; and Buck Pennington, an Air Force master sergeant from New Mexico, who is still dearly missed around these parts for his always-cogent (and kind) commentary.
Remembering those who have passed is important, but maybe the best to be done on a day such as this is to honor those still with us. These people are dear to me and I want them to know I love them and appreciate their sacrifices on my behalf.
I have two uncles who did peacetime duty - Jim in the Air Force and Rick in the Army. My sister-in-law, Luann Sweeney, and her husband, Charlie, who was… excuse me, I learned long ago you don’t use the past tense with these guys… IS a Marine. He carries a steel plate in his skull from his tenure in the armed forces. Skip O'Brien, of the Navy, who never fails to make me laugh. My friends from Southie, Leo Greeley and Joey Magee, who did stints in the Middle East, as did John King from Milton (a veteran of TWO branches – Navy first, Army later.) Chris Goodrich, from Rhode Island, an Air Force Master Sergeant who did 24 years and who has written some of the most engaging histories it has ever been my pleasure to read, on his blog Chant du Depart. Rich Snider, a Naval officer, is a Vietnam vet, good training for having been my boss for some 20+ years. Dean Cook, a Marine and one-time Libertarian candidate for governor, whose campaign I was proud to manage.
I know there are others I’ll regret not having mentioned as soon as this publishes. If you're one of them, please forgive me for that. Thank you ALL for serving. Enjoy the day and God bless you.