Friday’s List – Honoring Our Veterans

In honor of those who have faithfully served our country.

My father who served with the Navy in the Pacific during WW II. My mother was left at home to care for three small children. (I was not born until after the war.)

My first husband who was with the USMC in Vietnam. Wounded while there, he earned the Purple Heart and was given 10% disability for problems from his injuries there. Sadly, when he came home, he was met with protesters who called him “baby killer.” After he was discharged from the USMC, we came home with a USMC sticker on our car. One night in St. Louis we were followed by a car full of young people yelling obscenities at us. It was a scary time. He survived Vietnam and then was killed in an accident working on our car in our front yard. He never lived to see the Vietnam vets finally given some respect. I hate that!

My second husband is a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force. He served in Thailand, France and Germany overseas and in Texas and California here at home.

My two sons (stepsons but still mine) also served in the USAF. The oldest one was disabled as a result of his time in the service. He was a disabled veteran who died over seven years ago.

The youngest served at the Pentagon while in the USAF.

Christmas Past – I Said “Yes”

Christmas always brings memories of the past as I reflect on all the years that have passed.  I remember:

  • The little wooden ornaments I painted for my little girls that they now hang on their trees.
  • The Christmas plate three of my grandchildren painted for me.
  • The live Christmas tree my husband and I purchased the first year of my marriage and how our son planted that tree in the front yard.  How quickly it grew and how sad it was when we drove by the house years later and saw the new owner had cut it down.

One special Christmas remains in my heart forever – Christmas of 1968.

My boyfriend had just completed basic training at the USMC base in San Diego, California and was coming home on Christmas Eve.  He was traveling home by bus and his parents were going to call me as soon as he let them know he was at the bus station in St. Louis.  They would then swing by and pick me up and we would go to get him.

Lonnie

It was late when the call finally came and I was so excited!  After we picked him up at the bus station we hurried to his home where his eight brothers and sisters were anxiously waiting to see him.

By the time the family reunion was over it was early morning Christmas Day and Lonnie got the keys to the family car to drive me home.  Sitting in the car before I went inside he asked me to marry him.

I said YES!

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Sadly, the wedding would not be for a while as he was headed to Vietnam shortly after the New Year.

The holidays were both happy, but sad.  So good to be together, to celebrate our engagement.  So sad to face the months ahead of separation and danger for him.  Would he survive the war?  Would we really be married?

This Christmas I think of all the service men and women who are far from home protecting our country and of their family – parents, spouses, children — who will have an empty spot at their table.

If you know someone who is serving overseas, send them a card and let them know you are thinking of them.  If you know a family who has a member who will be absent this year at the festivities, give them a call.  Encourage them and share your appreciation of the sacrifice both they and their family member are making for us.

My story had a happy ending.  After 13 months my Marine returned home and we were married.

 

“War is Hell” – Remembering “My” Veterans

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Thinking this month as we celebrated Veterans Day of the Veterans in my life.  In many ways their experiences were similar.  No doubt they could have shared with each other stories of boot camp, of foreign lands and the homesickness they must have felt as they left family and friends behind for their tour of duty.

Yet each one had their own story.  And I honor them all.

US Navy – World War II

Dad

First was my Dad, Hal Sechrest.  Dad entered the Navy in the middle of World War II.  He saw action in the Pacific serving on the battleship USS North Carolina.  Dad never talked much about the war, but I remember him telling how their ship was struck by a torpedo and I could sense the fear he must have felt in that battle.  He told me when they said, “War is hell!” they were telling the truth.

US Marine Corps – Vietnam War

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I got an even better sense that war is hell when I married my second veteran, Lonnie Lott.  Lonnie and I married shortly after his return from a thirteen-month tour of duty in Vietnam.  Like my Dad, he never talked much about the war.  Lonnie was wounded in the war and he carried shrapnel in his leg the rest of his life.  When the weather would change, he would often experience pain in his leg.  But the emotional scars were greater than any physical ones.  For the first months if he heard a loud noise (someone dropping a dish or a car backfiring) he would panic and start looking frantically around for a place to take cover. For several years he would wake me up at night by crying out in fear and pain as he had nightmares of the fire fights, of his buddies who were killed and severely wounded, and of the men he also killed in battle.

What is so ironic — Lonnie survived the war in Vietnam only to die in an accident in his front yard!

Twenty-year service – US Air Force

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Sometime after Lonnie’s death, I married again – my third veteran, Paul Lane.  Paul served in the chaplain’s office during his twenty-year career in the USAF.  While he never saw any “action” in the Vietnam War, he was part of the vital support for the men who did.  Providing a place where they could come and find comfort, strength and spiritual rest was an essential service.  Paul also does not talk that much about his service, but when he does I sense while he never knew the fear and horror involving in actual fighting, he suffered the pain of separation from family.  While his family was with him most of the time, there were times when he was stationed where he could not bring his family with him.  Being away from your children when they are growing up is a difficulty those who do not serve our country never know.

Thankful for a change in attitude!

When my Dad came back from World War II he said a serviceman could walk into any bar in his uniform and someone would offer to buy him a drink.

How I wish Lonnie could have received such respect.  Unfortunately our Vietnam Vets suffered much when they returned home.  One evening right after Lonnie was discharged we were driving in St. Louis when a car load of young men began following us.  At every stop light, they would yell at Lonnie “Hey baby killer!”  Lonnie received the Purple Heart and a few other medals.  He wanted to show them to his immediately family only.  But when he opened the box containing his Purple Heart, one of his brothers said, “I don’t want to see any medal you got for killing babies.”  Lonnie took the medal home, put in the bottom of a drawer and never allowed it to be taken out again.  There can be arguments whether we should ever have been in Vietnam or not – but the outrage or anger should have been expressed at the politicians who directed the war, not at the young men trying to do what was right for their country.

I’m Grateful!

I appreciate the sacrifice each of my veterans made to serve our country.  I know sometimes war may be necessary to protect our freedom, our homes, our families, but I also know “War is Hell!”  and I long for the day the prophet Isaiah spoke about –

And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.