Friday, November 12, 2010


With all the Veterans day talk I have been reflecting about past family and their military experiences.
this is the oldest record I have:

My grandmother simply had it labeled "Uncle Phillip"
the picture on the left is his high school graduation picture young bright eyed boy in a new suit.
The person on the right is the same man, but haunted now. WWI uniform, gaunt, changed forever. The shape of his mouth is even different. I wish I knew more about Uncle Phillip, where he was stationed, where he served, even where the pictures were taken.

My grandfathers and great uncles served in WWII, maternal grandfather was in the Pacific...newly changed name as the family rumor was that he was hiding from the mob, after a bad deal.  I have seen pictures of him in a jeep driving on beaches. I do not know where in the pacific he served, Hawaii or beyond.
My paternal grandfather did not serve, he did not pass his physicals...but my great uncles did and they were in Europe with the Canadian Forces, one uncle was in Halifax and parts beyond and others fought overseas. I even know of a family member that was there to liberate death camps....he told me that he had taken photographs of the day they arrived as no one would ever believe what they had seen or how they had treated people....but the military took the camera away, he claims he kept a roll they did not know about.
I guess in many ways they were the original Inglorious bastards.
Western Jews fighting the Nazis.

There are even tales that my great grandmother worked for the OSS, $75 dollars or so to a research librarian in the National Archives can get that validated if we want. I like the idea of her, hunched over listening to conversations in German and transcribing.  My Grandmother and great aunts were in Canada and Stateside, doing their part with the USO and war fact my paternal grandmother was rationed food in her home, slowly being starved and to escape that she married my grandfather. My maternal grandmother was working as war bride.

Then comes to my father and uncles, they all came to age during Vietnam. I am told that they knew of all too many friends that died, way too young, in far off places. My father joined to avoid being drafted and he had access to documents and when it was discovered that he was a Canadian he was honorably discharged, but when he wore his uniform to his brothers wedding was called a "baby killer"
One of my uncles ran with soap bars under his arms to raise his blood pressure so he would fail his physical.

I was born while Vietnam was still being fought, by brother as it was ending.

I admire the willingness of this long line of men and women to serve, I have been called an idealist in my beliefs that words can resolve conflicts.
I like the idea that no blood should be spilled and no hearts broken.
I understand that is not the case....but I see now a whole new flood of broken men and women returning home to a broken system of care for them. 

I remember the calls from a friend of my father who lived in the VA hospital; the screams and crying always present in the background. I think of the treatment my father and others received after returning home from Vietnam and newer wars. It breaks my heart. 
Although I might not believe in the war they are fighting, I believe in them.
 I only want them to come home, unbroken in spirit and body.

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