For The “Other” Veterans
On Veterans Day, we who served get a lot of attention. You’ve heard the saying, “Some gave all; all gave some,” and it applies across the board. We often try not to show our pride in having been part of the “bigger picture,” but underneath the veneer of stoicism, we’re all choked up with our memories of all the bitter and the sweet we experienced during our times of wartime service.
But I’m ashamed that we don’t give more recognition to those who “stand and wait:” our families. These wives, husbands, children and all other relatives of the service person. They may not have been active participants in military service, but they were on board with us the whole time, from basic training until final discharge. They sweated out those periods when there was no word from us, due to required secrecy of combat operations. They were the ones who regularly went to church or synagogue, lit candles, prayed novenas, sat with each other during times of greatest tension. They received, all too often, those terse little government letters that began “We regret to inform you…” and they gathered together in sorrowing silence while the final services were held “in absentia” for their loved ones.
These veterans of the home front learned to live on substitutes: nylon instead of silk or rubber, oleo rather than real butter.
They learned to make do on the pittances sent by the government as inadequate gestures of monthly compensation. And when their loved one was killed in action, they received checks for $10,000 in return for the priceless life that had been lost. During their service person’s absence, they didn’t necessarily stay at home wringing their hands. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work in shops and factories, proving to the world that women can do anything, while giving immeasurable support to the war efforts. They saved and crushed aluminum cans for recycling.
They ladled frying grease into jars for reprocessing and found new uses for old appliances. Not to abandon their femininity, they etched black lines on the backs of their legs to give the illusion that they actually had stockings on.
And through it all they remained unfaltering beacons of light and hope, sending regular “v-mails” and CARE packages to those in the line of fire. They brought a little touch of home to those in war-torn foreign lands at every opportunity, while dealing with their own shortages of almost every kind of “comfort” goods. Without question, they boosted the morale of the G.I at the front and gave him/her renewed purpose in a just cause. Did they actually win our wars for us? There’s no doubt in my mind that those who fought the good fight at home made a critical difference in the outlooks of everyone who faced the enemy directly. And if that’s a stretch of credibility, ask any G.I. who crouched, petrified, in a foxhole who he was thinking of the whole time.
So today I propose that we haul out the old pictures of our families and lift the glass of gratitude to them, for their own invaluable service. Here’s to you, Mom and Dad, and to you brothers and sisters, wives and sweethearts. You literally got us through the toughest times with your patience, courage, and unflagging love. We owe you the debt of our lives and our freedoms, and we’ll always cherish your memories.
George Thatcher Air Force, Retired November 2022