Gratitude, Dignity and Respect
The Stories we share with many others
It is not uncommon for families to have veteran family members. I know this is not my story alone. Many have a story to share and it may go like this or not.
One day I sat down on a mat made by my grandmother. She was one of the three wives who remained home to look after the children under their care collectively. Her husband had enlisted to serve in the war. She is my heroine.I sat down to listen to the stories as told to her by him. He was a man who was fluent in many Bantu Languages and skilled in prescribing herbal medicines for ailments. He was the 5th son and he traveled a lot with his father in search for herbs and honing the hunting skills in the green and thick wilderness of Africa. These skills must have helped him in the jungles of other countries.
When he was younger, he would go for long days with his father. His other brothers, who stayed, were the providers of the big family. All the older sons married at an early age in those times and stayed near their father's land. They created a large clan this way. Our clan is still big and all have kept in touch even if they are now scattered all over the world.
My grand father is said to have settled down finally on returning from war. He could not walk long distances before a long gone battle scar was re-awakened. He got these wounds during war. Their first campaign took them to Burma. Later it was Palestine, Sinai Desert and south Africa. They were members of the King's African Rifle (KAR) of the Seventh Brigade. In our language they were called the Ba-seveni. It is pronounced the same way one can say seven or 7 with 'ba' at the front.
My grand father walked with a slight limp. His left foot was hit by flying shrapnel as he was running towards the enemy out of the dug out trenches. His leg would have been cut off. When he returned, he regaled his family with stories of the campaigns. He talked little about the pain, I gathered this little detail though.
He told grand mother that he never felt anything at first in the heat of fire exchange. That was in Burma. He told her they finally took over the hill that had earlier been used as a staging point for Japanese Army. My grand father later became a medical Corp and a sergeant. They were deployed to other campaign areas in Palestine, Sinai and Southern Africa.
This is my story but there are many people out there with a similar one or different one but with a similar sentiment. The men from Africa, as well as those from other continents, left the comfort of home and joined many other to bring freedom to the world. It is to these that I dedicate this composition. There are those who have served in other wars, to them too is this story dedicated.
World War II Lectures
Veterans of the World
Veterans in our communities
I do ride my bicycle and on the street side or in the middle of squares are large box concrete stones with flags and mementos. At first glance, I did not know what all these well cared for monuments were. Later I got to know. The names I see engraved in the concrete or masonry are for remembrance of fallen veterans and those who served in different wars. They are the women and men who have fallen or are alive. I know a place, it is a large bridge and there veterans who fought in Korea, Vietnam. Japan, India, China, Burma and East Indies are remembered.There is a small well maintained green park.
This space reminded me of the story in our own family and many other in Africa. May be the African brigades did actually meet with some veterans from America. I now see the stark differences between Africa and America. Back in Africa the veterans have sorry monuments to remember their efforts. Africa still needs to work harder to uphold the memory of those who served. In USA, the remembrance spaces include spots in City Hall grounds, city squares and green spaces. They are well built and maintained. On a day like this ( which also happens to be the last day of WWI), a national holiday for paying tribute to veterans is observed.
The various routes in Massachusetts and New England have places erected to pay tribute to those who served. In various places, one sees bouquets, flags, candles and framed pictures placed at spots or cemeteries.
The communities have chosen to continue remembering their daughters and sons who fell and those who are still living. These are the ones we collectively honor. These people by deciding to serve they left their homes, familiar communities and peacetime activities. They put their comfort on the side. They saw duty and felt bound to go out of their way to create freedom in places where it was being abused. They gave up the intimacy, proximity and sacrificed their own security to preserve the simple luxuries of freedom.
I continue in amazement as I go from one street, park or square. The cities I have visited speak volumes when it comes to the veterans. I took time to go to the library and read about the wars and battles USA has engaged in. Wars have been many and therefore USA has different veterans from different theaters. It is these that USA is paying tribute to. Generating structures and institutionalizing respect and dignity for the veterans has long term consequences in the psyche of people. it improves on the feeling of community and continuity. the care that veterans receive today not only includes psycho-social support, housing but also re-employment. There is now affirmative re-employment for veterans. Walmart is one of those corporations that has come out fully to employ veterans there by improving community assimilation skills of veterans.
The cities or towns have continued cleaning and maintaining these spaces. This has continued to make cities engage in enduring activities that remind us of the veterans. The cemeteries or these spaces have small flags, big statues, masonry, bouquet, written stories, and family remembrances.
Homes of veterans have flags showing a home where one is. There are groups that compose and sing songs about the veterans. There are many poems that are dedicated to veterans. Veterans have organized local clubs and are engaged in self help initiatives across the country.
Recently, a veteran had a guide dog that enabled him to find his way as he walked. He wanted to enjoy a meal from one local delicatessen. He was never let in and he was unceremoniously sent off. He called on his local veteran's club who in turn called on other veterans. Many on big motorbikes, cars and different conveyances converged on the delicatessen. It was in the news and after two days the proprietor had to apologize. The big numbers of people who turned up in response to the eviction by a veteran was overwhelming. It showed communities were now galvanized for the veteran related causes. On that day, the activities of a service dog were made even more popular. People were educated about these assisting animals and it is likely they will face lesser evictions. The structures communities have built towards entrenching respect and dignity of the women and men who served is in many forms: the quiet well decorated masonry, cemeteries and monuments. It is those quiet, unremarkable moments in our everyday lives that embody what it means to live in a country that is free.
The veterans in USA ( and those in other lands), our current serving forces, all the military families wherever they may be deserve our undying gratitude.: there are no words to express our gratitude. It is our every day actions, our belief in peace and giving others the respect and dignity they deserve that will collectively do justice to the veterans' sacrifice.
If societies keep the promise to make peace, be respectful, promote dignity each and every day, that will be the mechanisms that keep our armies in their countries.It will enable them engage in peace time activities