A Tale of Two Warriors

28 05 2012

“Do the right thing.  Why?…..Because it’s the right thing.” U.S. MarinesImage

I’d like to tell you about a couple of heroes I know, one who is quite close to me and the other is someone I met once and most likely will never see again. These two heroes have some commonality between them, but far more differences.  They both held the same job for a time, only 50 years apart, other than that not a whole lot of similarities between them, but lets take a closer look at these two and see what else there is they might share, shall we.

The 1st is my mother’s older brother, my Uncle Carl.  He’s now in his 80s, but most of his life he worked for the government in one capacity or another, mostly in other countries. He now lives in Las Vegas since that was closest to the last place he worked before retirement.  A few years ago we went out to visit him and his wife and he took us around to see the sights.  One of the places we went was famous Fremont Street, the original location of the Vegas Strip.  While taking in the sights and sounds of the area we became separated from Carl.  When we found him he was surrounded by a small group of people who were taking turns shaking his hand, thanking him and yes, calling him a hero.  We stood at a short distance till the group moved on and we had him all to ourselves again. When he saw us standing there, he chuckled a bit, shook his head, pointed to his hat and said “I gotta get rid of this thing; that happens too often.”  The hat had writing that identified my Uncle Carl as WW2 U.S. Marines Veteran.  Not only that but it also let people know that he was a survivor of the Battle of Iwo Jimo, the bloodiest conflict fought in the South Pacific during the war.  When the smoke cleared from that fight 18,000 American troops would be wounded, nearly 7,000 paid the ultimate price with their lives, and the Japanese suffered loses of nearly 22,000 men.  I told Carl, “That’s really an honor that people see what you did and want to thank you.”  His answer, there were a lot of us that had to fight that damn war, I was one of the lucky ones that made it home, other that that, no big deal.”  If you have a relative that fought in that war you understand where my Uncle is coming from.  The majority saw more fighting, bloodshed, and death than most of us can even imagine.  They came home to a hero’s welcome and years later still are seen in that light.

Moving forward in time, it was a year ago I was going into one of the local supermarkets. A young man looking to be in his 20s was going in at the same time.  Shorter than me but with muscled-bound arms bigger around than my head, brown skin, a nearly shaved head, sleeveless tee-shirt, khakis, and dark sunglasses.  He slowed his pace to speak in Spanish to someone he evidently knew, who was coming out of the store.  It was then I drew close enough to see two distinguishable traits that set him apart from others more than his attire.  The first was a tattoo of an emblem I’d seen and known what it stood for all my life, the same logo my Uncle had on some of his possessions.  The second, a rather large scar on his right shoulder blade, the type of injury I had seen only one other time on a friend who served in Viet Nam; that had to be an injury sustained from exploding shrapnel.  Once we were both inside the store I decided to take a shot, “Marine!” I said in a solid voice.  The young man stopped, wheeled around, took off his glasses and said “Yes sir.”  Walking up to within a couple of paces I told him, “Young man, thank you for your willing service and sacrifice, I thank God for warriors such as yourself.”  A relaxed look came across his face as he stuck out his hand and said, “No sir, thank you. I chose to go and serve because I felt it was the right thing to do; it’s rare, but still nice when someone acknowledges that I made the right choice.”

“A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” G.K. Chesterton

Two men, two warriors, two wars over a half century apart.  One was drafted into a fight he wanted no part of, but did it anyway because there was a madness threatening the entire world and the people he knew and loved.  He did what he had to do and when it was over, he came home a hero.  The other volunteered to go for the same reason some fifty years later, to do his part to stop tyranny, oppression and evil.  He also did what he had to do, and when it was over, he came home, no fanfare, no celebrations except from the family who prayed for him every day.

On this Memorial holiday, may we “truly” take a moment to pause and remember these two heroes along with every man and woman that did their part to ensure our way of life and our freedoms.  Thank God today and everyday for that matter, for those who gave some, and as the saying goes, and for those that gave all.  Don’t be afraid to go up to someone that can be recognized as a person who served in the armed forces and say thank you.  That just could be the bright spot in the day that they need.  I know of one person that whenever he spots a recognizable veteran or enlisted person, he always takes a moment to stop at their table and express his gratitude and then works it out to quietly pay for their meal, and leaves without saying another word.  (Give that a whirl sometime!)

On behalf of the residents here at the Miller Manor, may each and everyone have a great Memorial Day, and may we never lose sight of why and for whom we celebrate this day.

Thank you Warriors, God Bless Each and Everyone of You!


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