Today we celebrate Veteran’s Day and remember all of those who fought and continue to fight to keep our country free. My grandfather was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. I still recall his stories of those wars and how he contracted malaria while in the Philippines and was stabbed with an ice pick there and nearly lost his life. I remember his stories of long train rides where he and his fellow soldiers had to stand the entire distance in cramped quarters. My cousin, Jim, proudly served in the Iraq War, and my uncles, father-in-law, and cousin also served.
A man I once interviewed, Tom Bell, was a member of a B-24 bomber crew in World War II. During the interview for my book, Wyoming Treasures, (Medallion, 2005), Tom told me “It’s a pretty fearsome thing to face death every two or three days for one week after another.” He would later succumb to an eye injury “We were flying to bomb an airfcraft ball bearing factory…it was one of the most heavily defended areas in Europe and the flak was very bad…We were flying at 25,000 feet, it was 40 below zero, approaching the target, and my bombsight was all ready. As we approached, I took one last look out, and as I did, a German piece of flak hit me and blew my right eye out…Plexiglas had also hit my left eye and one piece had been embedded in the cornea.” Fortunately a gifted doctor at the Mayo Clinic was able to save Tom’s left eye so he would still have sight from one eye.
Another man I had the honor to interview was also a World War II Vet. John “Ace” Bonar was drafted into the War in 1943 and served for three years in Europe with the 86th Combat Division, known as “Black Hawk,” following the Battle of the Bulge. “It was a dangerous time. I was scared for my life all the time,” Ace told me. He recalled a particularly harrowing time. “‘The eight-eights [German anti-tank weapon] almost got us.’ A noise that sounded like thunder, produced by a large and dangerous weapon, shook the ground and reverberated in John’s direction.” [Even decades after the War] when John heard thunder, “he relived the days when the sound was much more than a weather condition.”
So it is to you—veterans of all the wars in the past and those still happening today—thank you! We appreciate you and vow never to forget what you did for us and how you sacrificed your lives for us.
To our soldiers serving today—no words can ever express our gratitude to you. May God bless you and keep you safe. May you return home safely to your families and may we never forget the sacrifices you make daily to protect the citizens of the United States.
Happy Veteran’s Day!