November 7, 2012 by palamow
BITS and PIECES # 9
Hello again from Luquillo,
This coming Sunday, November 11 is Veteran’s Day ― a day to honor those who selflessly dedicated a portion of their lives to serve their country in the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard – Reserve and National Guard ― men and women of all races and creeds, from all over our country, each with a unique military history ― combat infantry, cooks, fighter pilots, file clerks, special forces, SEALs, truck drivers, tank mechanics, carrier sailors, combat photographers ― the list is endless ― each and every one a hero, regardless of rank or specialty ― why? because they served their country with unflinching honor and fidelity…
I wrote this article a few years ago as an ‘op-ed’ piece for the now defunct ‘San Juan Star’, which was then our local English language newspaper. A year or so later I updated it and included it in ‘Snapshots from the Road’, my first published collection of reminiscences. Here it is, updated once again for your scrutiny and reflection…
THOUGHTS ON VETERAN’S DAY
Recent e-mail messages from old Air Force comrades remind me that fifty-nine years have elapsed since we shared accommodations in a freezing, olive-drab canvas tent near an airfield flight-line as the cease-fire that would end hostilities in Korea was being negotiated a few miles away. Memories of that long forgotten Asian war still lurk in the far recesses of my mind ― grainy black-and-white mental snapshots that I drag-out and reexamine occasionally.
I stay in touch with these few aging friends from those days ― our collective memory of flying over the frozen, inhospitable Korean landscape in aging WW II aluminum leftovers has linked us for life.
We communicate by e-mail ― we’re “geezers” now, in our late seventies and early eighties ― an age at which one could expect that our correspondence would be limited to endless recounting of physical deterioration ― hip replacements, coronary bypasses and the like ― curiously, they are not.
Mostly we trade brags on our favorite sports teams or regale each other with tales of how we are uniquely blessed with ‘beautiful, intelligent and talented’ wives ― we describe in lengthy detail the latest exploits of our ‘highly accomplished’ children and ‘brilliant’ grandchildren ― occasionally exchanging digital copies of old photos taken when we were fuzzy-cheeked, teen-aged warriors.
We have managed to tame the intricacies of the personal computer and its stepchild the internet by revisiting the zeal and technical prowess that we once employed to master the arcane accessories of war.
We swap ‘war stories’ infrequently, and only if they recall the funny side of our shared experience. As the years go by, we talk about those long-gone days less frequently ― always reluctant to relate our wartime recollections to family or friends ― though, looking back after so many years have gone by, we remain vaguely astonished that we came through those dangerous days relatively unscathed…
Despite today’s many uncertainties, we don’t get too anxious about trivialities such as wavering stock market shares, failing industries and expanding unemployment ― we’ve lived long enough to have experienced such events again and again, and having done so we understand that uncertainties of this sort are predictably cyclic ― stability, and even prosperity will return soon enough ― in the meantime, we veterans remember all too well how to manage health and finance issues during tough times.
Instead of fretting unnecessarily, we concentrate on more important issues ― holding hands with our spouses as we walk together along a deserted beach, sharing a glorious sunset ― talking on the telephone to our grandkids ― applauding their triumphs and dispensing grandfatherly counsel when necessary to mitigate the stings of their minor youthful tragedies.
We celebrate getting up each day ― relishing simple pleasures like the smells of breakfast emanating from the kitchen, knowing that we have another day ahead of us during which we can choose to be either productive or aimless ― and that the choice is solely our own to make…
On balance, we consider ourselves quite blessed to have experienced living at both its ebb and flow – to have survived to savor the remembrance of it, while continuing to live the remainder of our lives to the fullest extent ― making more wonderful memories as each day passes.
© 2008, 2012 – Alan Mowbray Jr.