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The Times
  • Veterans Day: Take time to say thank you

  • When I see a World War II or Korean War veteran, I'm often reminded of my father. I never saw him as the young man he was when he went off to war. I viewed him as what he was to our family: A father and a hard worker.

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  • When I see a World War II or Korean War veteran, I'm often reminded of my father. I never saw him as the young man he was when he went off to war. I viewed him as what he was to our family: A father and a hard worker.
    After serving with the 82nd Airborne in WWII, he returned home to pick up where he left off. I suppose more accurately, he returned home to start his life. He enlisted in the Army in 1943, went to war (as did millions of others) and came home with two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, which along with his uniform, promptly went into a closet.
    He held a number of jobs, including selling the once famous Fuller brushes, but I remember him most as a brakeman or conductor for the Boston & Maine Railroad.
    Pop never talked much about his service, and when he did, it was usually about the lighter moments, such as when a pair of master sergeants at Fort Knox, after the war, were busted back to private. I believe he said alcohol was involved in the charges.
    According to my dad, General Bruce Clarke arranged for the newly-minted privates to be promoted each month until reaching their previously held rank of master sergeant. At that point, they were promptly retired before they could get in trouble again.
    If we were to see these sergeants today, we'd see two old men, gray-haired, walking slowly through town, the mall, or at a Veterans' Day parade, perhaps wearing a ball cap emblazoned with the phrase "WWII Veteran,” with two or three ribbons representing service during that time.
    What we won't see is these men in the glory of their youth, robust, fit, wooing a young lady while on weekend pass, hoping to charm her for -- well, whatever they hoped for during the war years.
    America's WWII and Korean War veterans are well into their later years, a great many of them octogenarians and beyond. The majority of Vietnam veterans are now in their 60s and 70s. Even Gulf War veterans are pushing 40. How many of us realize the invasion of Kuwait took place more than 20 years ago?
    The men and women coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan are tomorrow's veterans. They're still in the prime of their youth, but it won't last forever. These men and women will likely hold the title of "veteran" much longer than they were a soldier, sailor, airman, marine or coastie. And it's one that should be worn proudly and acknowledged. We don't have to make a big deal out of it. If you know a veteran, or see one wearing a ball cap denoting service, just look him or her square in the eye and say "thank you."
    Page 2 of 2 - I promise you it will be appreciated.
    Bruce Coulter is a retired, disabled veteran and freelance columnist. He may be reached at bruce@theamericanmilitaryveteran.com.
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