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Memorial Day


I had a little e-mail chat the other day with a Veteran about the concept of courage.
It has been said that courage is showing up, being there, no matter how scared you are.

When I was a small child at the end of the Forties there was a man I knew only slightly.

He walked slowly, very slowly, when he went up and down the stairs to the rooming house where he lived. He had a habit of smoothing the brim of his hat when he talked; sliding his fingers around it and, I suppose, in the parlance of the times he was dapper in a Raymond Chandler sort of way. Even as a child I sensed that he knew much of the ways of the world.

He always smiled and said “Hello,” when he saw me. I never heard him complain, never saw him go in or out in a cranky frame of mind.

When I was a child we were told to mind our manners, not ask questions, especially personal ones like why a man who seemed so vibrant, so sure of himself, walked so very slowly up and down the stairs to his second floor front room; walked so stiffly in and out of the house.

I didn’t ask that question for several decades but finally did ask it of my dad.

The man in question it turned out had been a fighter pilot and had lost both his legs below the knee and had two artificial legs. The cane that I thought was part of his “look” served the function of balance for him, helped support his slow steps.

And yet this man still flew small planes. As he had shown up, where? the bloodied tides of the Normandy coast line? some atoll in the Pacific? he was still showing up for himself.

That too takes much, much courage.

I watched the dedication yesterday of the World War II Memorial. I watched the memories wash through eyes and over faces. I have seen the stare in so many of your eyes and yet you too are still showing the courage you showed your buddies by standing up, by being there for them when hell opened its doors and challenged.

To those of you who have served, I salute your courage wherever you found it; in the frozen ground of Korea, in the steaming heat of Vietnam, in desert sands, or cold mountain ridges - wherever, whenever. I salute your courage that you came home, welcomed or not, and took up lives despite the pain of memories that live in your hearts, souls, and bodies.

From the cold Delaware crossings, from Shiloh, from Chateau Thierry, from the Bulge, from Heartbreak Ridge, through the hell of Khe Sanh, and Cu Chi; through all the battle fronts since then you have shown courage.

Thank you for that.
Thank you for the air we breathe free.
God Bless All of You and Welcome Home.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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