Like most families in Kentucky and West Virginia, mine has a long history of serving in the military.
My grandfather was a doughboy during World War I. He was injured and received a Purple Heart.
My uncle, his son, was in the Air Force during World War II. My other uncle, his son-in-law, was in the Army for the same war while my dad was a gunner on the USS Chief, a minesweeper. The job of the ship was to seek out mines laid in the ocean, but they also had to protect themselves from kamikaze attacks and that was the primary job of my dad – shooting down kamikazes before they struck the ship. He saw six or eight battles, he said.
That’s about all I know about my family’s service.
It’s not that I didn’t ask; I wanted to know what it was like to be in service, especially during wartime. But like many men who have served, they prefer not to talk about it. In my family, they especially preferred not to talk about it to “a girl.”
Veterans certainly have the right not to talk about what they endured, but I wish they would.
For one, it might improve their relationships with family members. Most men don’t readily share their feelings, even when their feelings are more along the lines of domestic incidents or trouble at work. I don’t tend to keep my feelings to myself, but when I do, I find the problem that troubles me grows and grows until I tell someone about it. After I talk about it, the problem is never as daunting as it seemed.
Talking just makes you feel better. Maybe you won’t find an solution. Maybe it will just go away after you verbalize it. Maybe telling the right person will solve the problem right away; maybe that person is causing the problem and isn’t aware that a few changes on his or her part can fix the situation. Whatever happens, talking just makes you feel better.
These are both good reasons for anyone to talk about what’s troubling them. They are good reasons for those who have served in a way to talk about the baggage they carry from their wartime experience. Another good reason, maybe the most important reason is legacy.
I’m embarrassed to say that what I know about my family’s military experience amounts to a short paragraph, but that’s all anyone wanted to share with me. I just wish I had more information to pass on to others, and to have just for myself. It would help future generations to understand the sacrifices made for our freedom and it would help us understand war, perhaps to help us make better decision about the direction our country should take.
LEE WARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2661.