As we approach Veterans Day to honor all of the veterans who fought and continue to fight to protect our great country, I would also like to recognize and honor all of the mothers and fathers whose sons and daughters served in the armed forces and who continue to protect our freedoms.
Instinctively, parents are taught to protect their children at all costs from harm. Yet when wars break out and sons and daughters are sent into combat, parents can no longer protect those who are most precious to us.
As I lament the unbearable stress of the soldier in the field, I also think of the stress parents face while their children are off in a war zone. I remember my father, Frank, telling me that when he left home to serve in World War II his mother’s hair was jet black, and when he returned four years later her hair was white. My father served with four of his brothers at the same time during World War II. Can you imagine being a parent and having five sons serving at the same time? By the grace of God they all returned.
My Uncle Leonard, who was one of the five brothers, served in the Marines and enlisted during his senior year of high school. He was sent to fight in the Pacific within six months after graduation. He still lives in Dunkirk and remains a living hero.
We need to also reflect on all the parents whose children did not return from war. They end up with a lifetime of loss and heartache. I think of my mother and father and the stress they had to endure while my brother George served in Vietnam. I remember my parents taking all 11 of my brothers and sisters to the airport to see him off. Everyone cried as he boarded his flight, and I couldn’t understand why. I didn’t understand war at that time. A lot of the family members and friends who also came to see my brother off knew it might be the last time they would see him alive. Unfortunately, it was. He died in a tragic accident in Vietnam on July 30, 1967. He was 20 year old. I was only 8 at the time, yet not a day goes by 46 years later that I do not think of him and the heartbreak of losing a sibling.
My nephew, Joseph Collado, was a Marine Reservist and was called to active duty during the first wave of the Iraq war. He was assigned to a tank squadron. He saw plenty of action and was fortunate to make it back home after the battles he was involved in. He knew that his mother and father were undergoing the stress that all parents feel while their child is fighting a war. He would send his parents letters saying it was like a vacation over there to lessen their stress. I would get letters with a little more detail. His friends and cousins received the news of how the Iraq war really was.
The older I get, the more I have grown to abhor war and all its atrocities. I understand we have to protect our country from foreign invaders and that we have to stop terrorism in other countries, but at what cost? Wars have been fought since the beginning of time. How do we explain to our children the extremism taking place before our eyes? Before Sept. 11, 2001, we felt pretty safe in the United States from terrorism. Now we see things on the Internet and television from home and abroad every day about bombings and killings and we thank God it wasn’t in our own backyard.
In the famous words of President John F. Kennedy, “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”