Bill and I spent the past week in Branson attending their annual Veterans conference. Our goal –to sell His novels, Room 1515 and The Fifth Step. Our result—humbling.
The veterans we encountered served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and the Afghanistan wars. The common thread binding these fine men and women together shone brightly. Heads held high, eyes searching for former war buddies; they openly shared war experiences with fellow comrades with pride. The greatest compliment of veterans in attendance served in Vietnam.
With outstretched hands, we greeted those that passed by our booth. They gazed intently at the WWII picture album we shared. Viewing pictures taken by Bill’s father as he marched across France and Germany, sparked comments and memories of a time now past. Past to most Americans, but not forgotten by our Veterans.
We soon absorbed the emotional impact of their sacrifice. Many of these warriors’ eyes moistened as they retold their stories. They voiced the pain of returning home to dishonor because the American people were against the war in Vietnam. Unable to find employment, many lost the very family they fought to defend. Several voiced stories of losing fathers, brothers, sisters, and best friends. Clearly, the war experience remained a presence in their lives even today.
One wife shared that her husband had been a vile man upon his return from Vietnam. He often expressed rage instead of understanding when dealing with family issues and child discipline. He remained distant and unloving until 9/11. The attack on his nation erupted feelings he had tried to bury for over forty years. He experienced a severe flashback and retreated to his closet with a knife and deep depression. Finally admitting to the pain, he sought help through the VA and is whole at last.
Another vet spoke of his need to return to Branson annually to experience the gratitude for his service. Recognition not received upon his return from war.
Attendees shared stories of parents unable to speak of experiences while serving overseas. They owned shoeboxes full of pictures found in the attic with no way of knowing the story behind the Brownie camera shots.
A woman in her sixties recorded her father’s memories while on his death bed. For the first time during her life, he shared his past. At the age of seventeen, and the eldest son of a Catholic family in Poland, he was forced into service with the German army. He witnessed atrocities against the Jews. He spent six years as a prisoner of war. Finally free, he sought admission to the United Sates where he built a life, started a family, and found peace. The daughter is writing his memoir. She beamed with pride.
We must never forget our Veterans. Please give a heart filled thanks to a vet today.