Veterans Day

Sir in WW 1

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

My grandfather,we called him ‘Sir’.

I never actually understood my grandfathers silence until my own life has gone further past me than I ever imagined. Sir never spoke much ever that I can recall. He would always seem somewhere in a distance as if he was waiting for something to come to his mind yet it would never seem to arrive.

Sir was my favorite person. To me he is a hero,though unrecognized because his heroics are known to me.

My grandfather worked many jobs before ending up in the iron workers union in Washington DC. In 1962 he was a part of building a wing of the nation’s capital,in 1966 he was buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Only through films about living and dying in the trenches in World War One could I ever learn about why my grandfather never spoke and kept his place to himself. He too had to have suffered great pain from post traumatic stress disorder.

He was a good dedicated man,I know that. I know he came to Washington DC to find the payment of a broken promise made to this country’s veterans back in those days…the unpaid bonus with ended up in a massive encampment of veterans and their families next to the Anacostia River. Many story’s come to mind from my grandmother and my father about those days. MacArthur led the US Calvary into the camps to disband thousands of men and woman who were there to receive a promised reward. It was last use of the mounted calvary of the US Army.

I had my haircut two days ago in a local barbershop that I happened upon. It was in the rear of a building that once was a dentist office. I saw the striped pole while driving past and on impulse I went in,needing a real haircut.

The shop was almost as if it was a nautical gift shop instead of what it was. I was really fascinated with a certain model ship and said something to the lady cutting my hair.

My question inspired her response about her husband,a combat wounded Viet Nam veteran and the more she talked made me feel more guilt about my own disability status but yet opened the door to speak intelligently about her husbands own disability.

He suffers from prostate cancer and heart disease and post traumatic stress disorder and only receives 10% disability from the VA.

Because of my writing this blog for 5 years and doing the research on VA policies that I have it turns out that the knowledge I have gained seemed important for them,this lady barber and her husband,and the other barber that walked out to the breeze-way to smoke. He stopped me as I exited towards my truck. He had questions too.

The man was a purple heart recipient,wounded in Viet Nam. He too was ruined due to Agent Orange. And retired Army. His words about disability compensation from the VA were sad. He showed me his wound area and described how things have been. He said he had never heard some of the policies I was speaking about inside…especially those about the current rules declared by the VA this past July. One such pays a disability to Vietnamese subjected to the chemical responsable for ruining so many lives.

When I drove away I was stopped at the traffic light only two blocks from the shop. The light was a major intersection and standing on the corner were two young men perhaps around age 20 to 25. Both had to hold their pants up with one hand. A huge band of underwear kept showing,for some reason every once in a while the two would pull the pants up like normal,and then they would as quickly drop back down to expose the underwear. The light changed while they were waiting and given the walk signal the pair began crossing six lanes of street all the time holding these pants up….I think they are really short pants,but not yet figured it out. They shuffled as they walked,their shoes were nothing more than slippers a housewife would wear.

The barber that had left the space while I was talking to my barber about her husbands ailments from conflict overseas had told me from the beginning of his conversation with me that he had to leave the room because of the emotion of what the memory does to him. Serving 30 years in the US Army and now discovering the thanks given to him by the Veterans Administration in recognition to his dedication to our country. A man my age looking tearfully as he explains how his life was broken by all of his dedication to serve. He lost a wife and his sons along the way as their lives needed more than just having a Dad living in so many places every two years,or him being deployed for long periods in places the family could not go. The meantime my barber was telling the woes she and her husband go through. It was almost as if this supposed to happen to encourage my own advocacy for veterans to continue and become larger.

I sat in my truck looking at the two men(?) waddle across the street gripping the waist band of the oversize pants they worked so hard to keep from falling down. Young men their age are serving in a conflict overseas as we sit and ponder our day. In my youth the hippie movement came to be to protest the wrong of a war that is still doing wrong. This day it seems the wars we are involved in now have no patriotic following. During the 60’s and 70’s one could not miss the sight military uniforms in public places.  Today we see more young men gripping the waist band of their pants and the view of underwear showing on grown men….?

Remember,it was not the veteran who started the wars!



6 Responses to “Veterans Day”

  1. Jerry Says:

    My Grandfather served in WWII for four years and the Battle of Normandy. He then volunterred to go to Korea 10 years later. They offered him the position of Warrant Officer but he chose to stay a Master Sargent to lead his men. His VA Doctor prescribed Coumadin and he started bleeding on the brain at 51. They did brain surgery to remove the excess blood and clot that was forming and then he was rendered a paraplegic. My Grandmother, a self described “Military Wife” cared for him at home for 6 1/2 years and he died at 57. He was buried with full military honors. He gave his life to his country and had no regrets.

  2. Joan Says:

    My grandfather was also a WW I Veteran – although we know that he was a cook in France – that is all we know. He never really talked about it.

    I speak with my local VSO Veterans all of the time about what services are available to them and how to make sure they are getting what they have earned. EARNED. Veterans Benefits are not Welfare benefits.

    It is heartbreaking at times. Some of them talk about PTSD and then say things like – “You have never been in combat, so I know you can’t really understand.” I leave it there. I give them some form of agreement. You really can’t explain that you do understand because they can’t understand. PTSD is PTSD.

    You are an amazing advocate, Jay! It must run in your family 🙂



  3. Jerry Says:

    They used to call PTSD being shell shocked and they’ve used other variations also to describe it. My Grandfather was a WW11 vet and would relive the nightmares of seeing his buddies blown up standing right next to him in The Battle of Normandy. Our injuries occurred while we were on active duty, that is the only thing that matters. Peace

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