The stories you are about to read are real. I was able to interview 58 veterans during the course of 13 months from 2009-2010 and tell their stories to the public. Fifty-four have agreed to let you hear them. Let me tell you how this project began.
In the early spring of 2009, I was between jobs. One day I decided to go out for lunch and visited a local fast food restaurant in the area. As I sat there and ate my lunch, I noticed a car pull up outside. From the vehicle an elderly gentleman slowly got out and went to the passenger side and assisted his wife from the car. She was obviously blind and needed assistance.
The pair cautiously entered the restaurant and he guided his wife into her seat. He then went to the counter and ordered their food. As I glanced over from time to time, I watched them eat and converse happily with one another.
I noticed the ball cap the man was wearing but could not read it very well from where I was sitting. I did realize it had something to do with being a veteran. I got up to get a refill of my drink and walked past them. I was able to read his hat at that point. It said that he had been in World War II and had been in an amphibious group in the Navy.
I went back to my seat and finished my lunch. I pondered my next move. I gathered up my trash and got up and put it in the garbage container. I then walked over to the gentleman. I asked him if he had been in World War II and he acknowledged that he had been and served in the Navy. I reached out with my right hand and shook his, thanking him for his service to our country. Delighted and overwhelmed, he tried to stand up but I begged him to stay. “Why thank you. Were you in the service, son?” He inquired of me.
“Yes.” I replied. “I was in the Coast Guard during Vietnam.” He then reciprocated and thanked me for my service. I smiled at both of them and made my way out to my car. When I got there, I sat for a while and did some thinking.
Someone needs to tell these stories, I thought to myself, before it’s too late. As I began the drive home, my mind would not stop thinking about this gentleman. By the time I arrived home, I had a plan thought out.
I got on my computer and created a query on email to send to the Carroll County Times newspaper in Westminster, Maryland. It would be to the attention of the editor, Mr. Jim Lee. I asked Mr. Lee if he would consider a newspaper series on true stories of veterans. I would go out and interview each one and then tell their story. He thought it was a great idea. He requested five to six stories ahead to see how they would look and see my writing style. The rest is history. From July 4, 2009 until August 7, 2010 the series Blood, Sweat and Tears appeared weekly in the Times.
I never did get the name of that gentleman in the fast food restaurant that fateful day. But I am indebted to him and to every veteran I interviewed in the series. I have never felt as humbled as I did when I did each interview in the presence of true American heroes.
One thing that really amazed me was how humble these gentlemen were. Not one of them glorified war. They all said they were just doing their job for their country. They did not consider themselves special. They did not consider themselves heroes. They did not think they deserved special treatment because of what they did. They did it because they felt it was their duty.
“War is Hell.” These were the words of General William Tecumseh Sherman during the American Civil War. These words would resonate throughout the decades to follow as an apt description of armed conflict.
Many people try to glorify and make war seem to be something to revere. In their eyes there is nothing like it. There is nothing ever glorious from war, not even the victory. Lives are lost, bodies maimed for life, civilians killed, and properties are destroyed. The joy of the victories may be short-lived due to the overwhelming realization that a country must be rebuilt and families must be reborn.
What the men in these stories did was an ultimate test of their character and fortitude. Their character speaks volumes as they reached heights never approached before. Many were from farms or small towns. Some withdrew from college and put their education on hold. They all left families and sweethearts behind. They knew what they were going to was much larger and important. What they were going to do had to be done and they would do it. Some came home perfectly fine while others took years to regroup and some would never be able to. Some were prisoners-of-war and some may never have seen battle. But all had served and did so without reservation.
These gentlemen are the real heroes in American history and everyday life; not television or movie stars, rockers or sports people. They are the ones that have helped preserve our liberties and the lives we have today. They are the ones that have lived and died for our freedoms abroad so we did not have to fight them on our ground. Wars are not something we should strive for. They are something that should be avoided at all costs. However, when all efforts fail, it may be a necessary evil. If we are to preserve our way of life, it comes with a cost. That cost may be war and loss of lives.
There is a saying that nothing is free. It is so true when it comes to freedom. Our nation has been truly blessed by God and He has given us the rights and freedoms to preserve it and maintain it. We must be good stewards of what He has given unto us.
Decades ago, the military used to use a phrase that is still very appropriate – peace through strength. If we do not maintain what these men have fought for, it will be lost. We must maintain a strong national defense and preserve the liberties of our nation for our future generations. There will always be evil in the world and we must be ready to face it. We must be strong enough to face. We must have the guts to face it. When and if war comes to us, we must be ready to fight it to win. We must have men and women with the moral fortitude and courage to face it head on such as those in these stories.
I publicly thank these men for allowing me to tell their stories to the world. During these interviews sometimes chins quivered, sometimes eyes welled up, and sometimes exits from the room were appropriate. But the stories were told. They felt equally compelled to let people know what they did and what they saw. People should know what they sacrificed in time, family, friends and memories.
In closing, please enjoy these stories and when you see a veteran or know a veteran, take a moment to say “Thank you.” Look around and thank God for the nation you live in and the freedoms you enjoy. It is because of them and not a politician you have the liberties you have today.
A special thank you goes to Mr. Jim Lee of the Carroll County Times newspaper for having the faith in me to allow me to tell these stories in his newspaper. I would also like to thank Mr. Wayne Carter of the Carroll County Times for working with me weekly in getting the stories edited, corrected and published in a timely manner.
The book can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AmericaStar books.