I always think about my father on Veterans Day. He earned his Purple Heart during the Battle of the Bulge. (For those of you too young to recognize the name, it was the last battle with Germany in World War II.)

I think of the round scar on his right shoulder—caused by a bullet. I think of the scar on his upper arm, which was strangely shaped in comparison with his other arm—caused by surgery to treat an infected wound.

I think of the Purple Heart medal in the box that always reminded me—and still reminds me—of a coffin. (I’m luckier than many other sons of World War II combatants—too many of their fathers returned in actual coffins.)

I think of his proudest military possession—the patch that proclaimed him a private. To him, it was the privates that won the war. The generals just got the credit. (Who am I kidding? He thought he won the war with a small, and much appreciated, assist from a few million other guys—an opinion shared by each and everyone of those million other guys.)

I think of the times I made the mistake of touching him while he was asleep. He struck me in the eye-blink before he came awake. He always woke with a start—some part of him was still prepared to wake up and fight for his life, even in the late 1960s. In a sense, he brought a little bit of World War II home with him in his heart and mind.

When he got his draft notice, he was eager to go. He thought World War II would be the only war in his life time and he didn’t want to miss out. When he returned, he promised himself no son of his would fight in one. By sheer dumb luck, he got his wish.

We’re all able to enjoy a lot of freedoms we would have lost because of guys like him—both volunteers and draftees up until the post-Vietnam era; all volunteers now. And let’s not forget the women who served and serve. They may not be officially assigned to combat duties, but our enemies don’t really care. If they wear the U.S. uniform, they are potential targets—and those who choose to serve know it.

I always think about my father on Veterans Day. I hope the sons and daughters of vets still in service get to see their moms and dads when they, at long last, return to the world. I hope we never lose what vets we lost on foreign soil—and will lose in future years—paid so dearly to protect.

My thanks to all vets, past present and—sigh—future, because there will always be wars. (I wish that were not true, but it is.) My thanks to the warriors who lived and live—and those who never made it home. Your sons and daughters remember you and what you did—and parents, siblings, cousins and strangers remember, too.

Thanks from all of us.


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