Palaver from Persimmon Crossingwith Warren Faulk
Memorial DayUp with the flags, the music and the BBQ grill. We supposedly celebrate the lives and deaths of those who served us and in fact saved us in past conflicts. We do this very well, so well, that the people who actually did these brave acts are overlooked. Listening to a patriotic song may even raise goose bumps or bring a tear to one's eye. The National Anthem brings most of us to our feet. The old codger standing in the back with his hand over his heart may go completely unnoticed. Not worthy of our interest. But he still stands for us. He stood taller, steadier once. He was one of those whose virtues we now extol ... yet we do not see him.
I met such a man this week. Not many are left. Hundreds of them die everyday. Someday soon we'll make note of the death of the last surviving combat veteran of WW II, then Korea and so on.
I had an opportunity to look beyond the ceremony this week and talk to one of these people. I work in a recycling and trash collecting center. Most everyone who is still able to tend to their own business in my area comes to see me from time to time. Many of them have their "guards down" when they are doing something so equalizing as taking out the trash. The gentleman in question wanted to talk. I had seen him several times before. I remembered our first meeting because he was very serious about recycling his milk bottles and other cast off items and disappointed that we had no interest in styrofoam dinner plates. He had washed more than 200 of them, one a day, and stacked them neatly. Meals on Wheels recipient, yes. Another way to talk to someone.
He lives alone. Sometimes I think we all do. We see so little of what is going on around us day to day.
The story just popped out. I don't know what set him off. I had made an American flag out of corrugated tin and had it flying at the recycle center as an example of something that could be done with a castoff item. Maybe that is what set him off. He had joined the army at age 15 and by the time of Pearl Harbor he was 17 and a Staff Sergeant. He was a Battalion Training NCO in the 29th Infantry Regiment. He was 20 when on the beach at Normandy and fought his way into France for 38 days. During a night artillery barrage, he left a protected position to satisfy himself that some of his men were safe. He was knocked down by blast and shrapnel. He got up and tried to run but kept stepping in holes, or so he thought. Finally he held his legs up to the moonlight and could see one of his boots dangling.
He was picked up by a British ambulance crew and whisked to a large tent with hundreds of others on stretchers, then to a port where he was loaded on board ship and taken to Scotland. On the dock, his stretcher was placed shoulder to shoulder, with others, as far as he could see in all directions. The thing he remembered most was the moaning of his comrads. He was flown home, his leg repaired leaving many scars and he worked for the power company until retirement. I left out his name. In fact, I did not get his name, or find out for myself if he had been properly decorated for his sacrifice, or if he wanted to talk more about his buddies, how the world is treating him or if there is anything I can do for him.
This man is not Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone or Kurt Russel. He is just the man they play on TV.
-- Warren Faulk
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