To the Editor:
The Community Forum piece “Don’t Thank Me for My Service” in last week’s Islander so reminded me of my late husband’s experience in Korea. He too was on the front lines, and saw so many he knew well be blown up, shot, or gruesomely killed while not getting even a physical scratch himself. I learned early on not to ask about his war experience, which was long before I knew him. When he did speak of it I listened carefully and only asked a clarifying question.
My husband, being a photographer, documented the war for himself where he was stationed. As the years unfolded there were times he would talk about it in detail, then nothing for a long time. The black and white photo album of that time still exists.
He would not go to any veteran things, no VFW, no contact with other Korean Vets. He may have even been due a pension or something from the war, I have no idea, but he would not ask. He would not talk to anyone about it. The only thing he did do was get the medals he was due when they came out.
He contributed modestly to veteran’s charities until we found out that most were scams, with some being investigated by Congress for wasting what little he gave on lavish stuff for those running the charities. The day we found that out he cried, which was not like him. I said it would be better to go to the VA Hospital at Togus and hand the money to one of the vets in need there.
Since then I have questioned the Wreaths across America in my mind. Why spend so much money on putting wreaths on graves when so many alive Vets are homeless, and so many can’t get medical care? How about medical care, or homes for vets instead?
My husband did OK until my son died at age 31 in 1993. (My son was from my first husband, who was a conscientious objector during Vietnam.) My son and my second husband were best buds. Both were into fishing, fixing things, and carpentry. They built the second floor on our house.
After my son’s death, which we now know was from toxic exposure where he was stationed after Germany (five and a half years in the Army during the Cold War), my husband and I started to fall apart, but both for different reasons.
My husband’s PTSD kicked in full bore. He would be kicking and fighting in his sleep, yelling, even jumping out of bed thinking he was in a fight with the enemy. One of those times he even fell and hit his face on the night stand and severely injured himself. Another time he was next to a wall and kicked it so hard he was laid up with a very bad injury for weeks. He would even awaken me kicking and yelling in his sleep.
My husband was an only child and they took him anyway. And no, he did not want to be thanked for his service either.