Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 7, 2011

Honoring the Wounded

After Matt’s Grandpa passed away this fall, we had a chance to look through old letters that he had mailed Matt’s Grandma while he was away fighting at World War II.  It was a beautiful view into his life as a young man and as a young soldier.  He was an awesome ol’ timer to talk to and a conversation with him in 2010 inspired this blog posting about the men that never got to come home from the war.  His letters home never were explicit about the dangers he faced and he always protected his wife from the ugly reality of the war.

While fighting overseas, Grandpa was shot twice, once in the forehead and once in the leg, and earned two purple hearts, as well as a bronze star.  In his letter home after one of the events, he wrote that although he was hurt, it really wasn’t too bad.  Only later did Grandma find out how serious the injury was, after Grandpa had spent six months in a hospital!  A local newspaper article from back then highlighted his story and the fact that he had downplayed his injuries to make sure his beloved wife didn’t worry too much.  That’s just the way he was, always strong for her.

He made it back home intact and moved on to have a normal Iron Range life, working at the mines, raising a family.  But what if his injuries had been more destructive?  What if he had lost a limb, or two?  Or was stricken with severe PTSD that limited his ability to function the same way he had before he left for the War?  What then?

When I was in high school, I saw the music video for Metallica’s “One” that cuts in scenes from “Johnny Got His Gun” and was shaken up.  I read the novel “Johnny Got His Gun” and I never trusted a politician ever again.  The book is a first-person (fictional) account of a young man that loses his arms, legs and most of his face (if not all) in a battle.  As he’s laying there on a table unable to speak or make eye contact, you get pulled into his lost mind as he travels from one mental state to another.  The hardest part for me while reading it was knowing that this has happened to soldiers of ours, we just don’t hear about it.

I have no concept of war because I’ve never gone and I’ve never lived through one on our soil.  I don’t have close friends or family in the military and I don’t lay awake at night praying frantically that they will come home.  I have no clue what sacrifices these young men and women have made or are going to make so that I don’t have to understand war.  If I’m lucky, I’ll never know what it’s like to be that scared.  To be that brave.

Because I am this lucky, I owe these soldiers my gratitude.  Their courage allows me to be this clueless about the realities of war.  For that and for the sacrifice they make, I dedicate this 7th day of giving to our soldiers.  It is the anniversary of Pearl Harbor today and in recognition of those young Americans and all the generations who have fought for our country, I am donating to the Wounded Warrior Project.  The stated vision and purpose of the Wounded Warrior Project is “To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. To raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members. To help injured service members aid and assist each other. To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.”  There are so many services provided by this organization that I couldn’t give them all justice, I can only encourage you to visit their website – and consider the often thankless sacrifice they and their families make for the rest of us so that we can be naive and sometimes painfully ignorant.


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