The Legacy of a Veteran’s Service
We all have our connections and our stories about veterans. None of us has been spared the cruelty of war. None of us can escape its effect. Veterans Day is an opportunity for us to pause in our busy lives to honor those, both living and dead, who have served in our Armed Services.The effects of war are felt on a multi-generational basis. My father served in World War II. He was a crew chief on a B-17 and was stationed in India. I know very little more about his actual service, as he was not apt to discuss his experiences. The son of a Polish immigrant who worked in the coal mines of West Virginia, my father answered the call of his country, as did all who could. Those few short years of service would leave scars on his soul that would be felt in generations to come. Whatever happened to my father during the war would leave him haunted by demons for the balance of his life. He turned, as many did, to alcohol to treat his tormented soul. There was no cure to be found in the bottle. The effects of his disease became so great that he spent the last quarter of his life in and out of Veterans Administration Mental Hospitals. No cure was ever found. All the well-meaning doctors could do was prescribe for him handfuls of medication to keep the evil spirits at bay. Wherever I would visit him in Denver, Fort Lyons or Fort Leavenworth, the scene was always the same. My father would be surrounded by similar damaged souls. They would play cards to pass the time. They would smoke their cigarettes and stare into space. The effect of war would take its toll not only on my father, but also on his family. Anger and rage was the norm when he came home drunk after a long week of work. Neither my brother my sister nor I had done anything horribly wrong, but we still had to pay the price of that war. It’s a price that we still all pay today – each in our own particular way.Our veterans should be honored by each and every one of us. Thanked for their service to their country. Thanked for their service to the world. Veterans Day is for the living as well as the dead. Please recognize that many of our living veterans are still paying a price for protecting their country. They did not start the wars or the conflicts. They were bound by duty. Now they are bound by haunting memories and diseases. We can never repay them. We can only honor and understand them.Our community has joined together to erect a symbol of our gratitude to those who have served our country. Everyone is invited to join together today at Freedom Park in Edwards, at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, in the 11th month of the year. We will gather to pay tribute to those who have shielded us from harm. It’s a small price for us to pay to those who can never be fully repaid for their sacrifice to us all. Tom Stone is an Eagle County Commissioner.