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  • Community members from the local VFW chapter played Taps at my grandfather’s funeral. They fired rifles into the air. A United States Flag was given to my father. After the funeral at the ammo counter of the Cal Ranch store I purchased a fishing license. The man behind the counter knew my grandfather. “He was a great man.” he said as his voice cracked showing his age. He recognized me as a grandson of Orvis. He had been one of the riflemen at the service.

    Almost all the individuals I know who lived through World War II have died. Those individuals now in their eighties, nineties, and hundreds were my first encounter with veterans. In primary school I was taught that they had fought for my freedom. Orvis, my dad’s dad, had told me of bombs, land mines, foxhole prayers, and far off lands. He had stories from the War. He told those stories over and over.

    George, my mom’s dad, never talked about the war. On his arm he had a tattoo, something from the War. One day when he was burning weeds in a vacant lot he owned a disposable lighter exploded and part of the shrapnel cut and burned a large part of his arm. As a young child his wound was severe. Blood ran down his arm and dripped onto the charred alfalfa stubble and clay soil. I remember thinking to myself who was this man. He must be the toughest man alive.

    A few years later when I was in fifth grade our class was learning about WWII in history. I was proud of my grandparents who had “served in the wars.” I asked George to speak. He hesitated but agreed to. When he came to my school he stood tall. His hair white. However he wasn’t wearing a smile. He looked somber. He began to talk to the audience that had gathered to hear his experiences. We were eager to hear tales of heroic courage, narrow escapes, gun battles and victory. However, he didn’t tell us those tales. Instead, he started to talk, paused, voice quivered, and then broke down in tears. I had never seen my grandfather cry before. Up till then I had never seen him afraid. George was terrified. After a few minutes of tears he regained his composer and proceeded to tell us about his time in the US Army. He was honest. He told us about being 19 years old and seeing his friends drown in the pacific. He told us about the nightmares that have haunted him as a result of War.

    Today I thank George and Helen, Orvis and Florence. I thank them for their service and thank them for the stories that they shared with me. Their service sadly didn’t end conflict. Sadly there are still veterans from foreign wars coming home. And while I am thankful to the men and women who serve now, I cannot support the military complex that needs and feeds wars for economic growth. May we take care of our veterans. May we take care of our country. Let us dismantle the bombs and tanks, the drones and missiles.
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