My late father was little more than a year old on the first Armistice Day – November 11, 1919 – that commemorated the service and sacrifice of all those who fought in World War I, including the doughboy who would become his father-in-law. Dad went on to serve in World War II, including arriving in Europe on a beach in Normandy. (That’s him in this photo, next to the orange arrow. His boat’s arrival was documented by a French photographer. The image was later sold as a postcard.) He was fortunate to return home to Buffalo in a few years later in 1947 to open his own business and raise his family.
He stayed in touch with his many Army buddies through the years and often had them over to our house for lots of storytelling and reflections. An important part of his military service was the time he spent billeted with a family in Luxembourg: through the years our families exchanged letters and gifts and we even had the opportunity to meet his host and hostess when they visited the US in the late ‘60s. It was this family – Mr and Mrs Robert Guerin – who spotted this photo postcard in a gift shop in France after the war). Facebook keeps my sister and I in touch with this family’s daughter who now lives in Texas.
Typical of his fellow WW II vets, the stories he shared were mostly about the friendships he formed, the weather, the scenery, and not painful stories of warfare or reflections on politics of the day. No doubt there were soldiers who suffered the lingering impacts of war and its devastation: painful memories are hard to erase from even the toughest soldiers’ minds. But for the most part, those weren’t the stories that were readily shared.
Fast forward through the generations: things change, people change, perceptions and politics change. Soldiers returning from service are struggling and their challenges are very public: more than 30% of returning military personnel are living with mental health conditions requiring treatment yet less than 50% of them seek treatment. The Veterans Administration reports that 22 veterans die by suicide every day. Still more veterans are living with PTSD and are often reluctant to seek help.
Recently another veteran’s daughter – Sumiko Corley Moots – eulogized her late father, Commander Bennie L. Corley, US Navy. She said that “he was one of ‘The Greatest Generation,’ ordinary men doing extraordinary things.” These extraordinary acts often carry a lifetime of heavy burden on vets and their families, too.
This Veterans Day, take a moment to reflect on the proud men and women who served and who are serving our country…and hold a special thought for those men and women who carry the scars of their service, too. There is help for these men, women, and their families through the Veterans Administration, in Erie County, in Wyoming County, and here at Spectrum Health, and there are ways to show our enduring gratitude and appreciation for their service, too. Vets, thank you for your service.
Sgt. Nick Messore’s daughter Cherie Messore
Sr. Manager of Public Relations