Stories From a Soldier
Soldier's are all Around us Listen for Their Stories
Veterans Our Heros
There is much conviction or a sense of duty if you will, to share the stories learned from our veterans. They deserve our attention, and we should never forget!
It is essential to learn the stories held captive in their minds and hearts.
During my employment at The Veteran's Hospital, I gained access to their world of secrecy and survival. This insight was a blessing that changed my life forever.
Soldiers train to put on the armor of confidence, courage, and unimaginable strength. But, they have to remove their badges of protector long enough to breathe and heal.
As they contemplate the loss of their brethren in arms, they work hard at putting the pieces back together. This work is continuous as service changes soldiers. Those who return make it their call to remember the lost. At the same time, they must do the job of healing.
This hard work is necessary as they continue soldiering onward. Servicemen and women are a family, holding the hearts of their comrades close. They share their stories along with their own honoring the legacy of loss and service.
In the safety of the hospital, they can exhale the staunch stoicism of harbored memories. Here they are safe to speak of the peril responsible for filling our history books. We are attentive and amazed as we sit in awe! Their sacrifice and dedication to preserving our freedoms are humbling. They are due much honor and respect for their service.
The heartbreaking invisible ambiance of real heroism forms from their memoirs of tenacity as they describe the realities of war with such honesty. Bound by the learning of life lessons and traumatic experience, they become a group with an unbreakable bond. The hidden pain entwines them as brothers and sisters. Once you stop long enough to truly listen they offer the key of entry and their trunks unlock!
These heroes then feel free to open the floodgates, once open, the truth pours out. Their words of haunt form a tapestry of honor that weaves itself into a telling blanket of sadness and pride. It is always a privilege to listen to the witness of pain and glory from those who served our country.
Crossing the threshold of the Veteran's Hospital for me brought a curiosity, a desire to learn more about the plight of these veterans who provided our protection. How do we live a life of freedom, yet stay unaware of its costs? Sad to say I had a minimal grasp of the truth and sacrifice I am called to honor, but I now realize why we must seek and share their treasured legacies.
In the hospital, there was an accepted code of communication. It involves a genuine sense of solemnity and respect and has a familiarity with a secret language that is essential in times of war. As a therapist walking the halls among these heroes, I was a tad shy. I felt inept at first, as I wasn't well versed in the rich history of wars responsible for the allotment of our freedom. These men and women deserved my best work as a mere token of my appreciation for their service. I wanted to become their sounding board and their biggest cheerleader, and this I did.
The experiences awaiting me behind those doors turned out to be unlike any place I had worked prior. While working at the VA, I learned fast the distinct secrecy that went with this new territory. And once I understood, they were private in their sharing and kept it that way; I allowed their realness to draw me deeper into their world always craving to hear more stories from a soldier.
Veterans Describe Their Reality
For a short time, I was in the nursing home section awaiting the new opening of the spinal cord unit. I worked with these ancient almost feeble frail men; I thought. At first, they brought to mind an innate want to hold them and nurture them.
Little did I know the impact of their stories, and how honored I would be to share a part of their world of painful memories. How I remembered I was forever the child in their eye’s, and these fantastic men and women had sacrificed their youth for my freedom.
They found out I played guitar and so, there I sat with a guitar in hand, I played for those men, survivors, and servants of past wars, I played a few patriotic and even somber tunes either requested or ones I thought might be enjoyable. One day as I finished, I looked up to move my capo on the guitar to change the key, hoping it would invite them to sing along. It was then that my eyes met his.
He must have been a patient for some time as he looked weathered slumping down in his wheelchair. I noticed a single tear falling down his dark brown cheek. It was moving past his whiskers and wrinkles at a snail’s pace, unnoticeable to most. He recognized I saw it and straightened up as best he could and wiped it away. My heart ached for him, and yet I did not know why? I did not know the story, not yet anyway.
After I finished, the nurses’ aides came to retrieve them to go back to their rooms. I approached him; he had rolled over to a window and was gazing out into a courtyard, and he was in deep thought. I knelt by him and attempted to start my inquiry. “Hello sir,” I said, I then asked, “I am sorry, did I upset you this afternoon during our therapy group time, singing these songs?” He looked into my eyes, cupped my chin in his hand and said, “oh no dear one, you touched my heart. You’re beautiful rendition just took me back to the war sweetheart.”
I didn’t want to pry, but this sweet ’man’s kind and loving demeanor had me clinched at heart. It was like I too went back in time, and I was sitting with my grandfather as he was sharing a story while bouncing me on his knee. Even though this man’s skin was much darker than my fair Irish freckled face, at that moment, I felt like his granddaughter.
“May I ask, what you were thinking, sir? He said, well, child, I was in the Second World War. He went on; this was a war before you were even a thought, little one.” The way he referred to me was so cute as I was young, but married and had a baby girl of my own, yet he saw me as an innocent child. He shared, “I was a young man once like you, I was proud to fight for my country in another part of this God-given world. It was in foxhole honey, that I was, with my buddies. We were in the fight. I turn round loading up my weapon when it came like a firebomb. We hit! After the smoke cleared, I see my buddies strewn around me. It was a bad baby! There was blood everywhere, and my buddy’s arm rested at my feet.” The tears now welled in both of our eyes as he continued, “I scurried about try-in my best, but they were all dead!”
This sweet man looked at me as if to say I am sorry to share such horror with you, but the compassion in his eyes was phenomenal as he retrieved this distant memory with such clarity and definition. He stopped, took a breath and said, “I was the only one spared, my Lord spared me that day, but see, a big part of me died there—in that hole.”
His gentle demeanor seemed to shake it off as he said, “my life is a blessing tenfold, with a beautiful family and children and grandchildren, and I am thankful to my Lord. It’s just I loved those men, they were my brothers, and I guess I feel the guilt even today. I suppose I went on living’ in honor of the boys. They were and will always be my friends and a - part - of - me.”
He looked into my eyes, as I was now shedding crocodile tears to no avail, He again touched my cheek and tried his best to wipe my tears with his sweet shaking hand. “he said, “I love this country, and I would do it all again, I never understood, why me? Why was I spared?”
I hugged him tight and was about to return him to his room, then I said, I know why. What a magnificent man, what a sacrifice and still he honors His Lord and Savior.
He lived to honor God and his brother’s. He is my hero and yours and his story matters, then and now and for eternity. His savior spared him; he had a light that was to shine for many years. His glow was for himself, and his buddies left behind. His face was shining as he shared about his brother’s and how God allowed him here to share and honor their stories. His legacy lives on, in the stories from a soldier.
The stories that unfolded as I worked with the servicemen and women changed me forever. The respect and appreciation remain a constant for me always. There was a Captain who shared with me why his fingers had become so crooked. He would share that when he was in a prison camp, they took a hammer to his knuckles. One by one, they would crush them to torture.
Another story came from a medic who struggled with addictions post the Vietnam War as he got shot in the spine retrieving a fellow warrior from the fields. He now lives his own life as a person with paraplegia that uses a wheelchair. This soldier lost himself for some time and yet could break free and learn to embrace his inner strength. He came to know he didn't leave his soul in that war-torn country. He participated in sports of all kinds and to teach martial arts and self-defense to others with and without physical disabilities.
There was a special memory from my vault of a fantastic man, a golden knight named Dana Bowman. Dana lost his limbs and his jump partner Jose his brother in arms, in a tragic accident at an air flight show. After hitting in the air at ninety miles an hour, he lost his legs and best friend in an instant. Another casualty of this tragedy was his marriage as she was too young and perhaps selfish to handle the trauma. The day of his accident, Dana's wife left! His friend gone, his wife, and his legs, he could have died, but he picked up the pieces and moved forward.
Today he is a motivational speaker and has helped many in the wake of his storm; Dana Bowman is one of my heroes! He is your hero. I received a blessing to be on that mountain and ski next to him as he continued for those who lost their lives or would meet their challenges. I continue to have much love and respect for Dana.
This soldier within a year of this horrific accident would soar down the mountains of Colorado skiing on a brand new pair of prosthetic devices, the same year of his significant loss. Skiing the Colorado Mountains was fabulous but not nearly as moving as the legacy of unimaginable pain remaining on the landscape! New life witnessed carrying the burdens of the old we will never forget, and we thank you, all of you, for your service!
Why They Served, Why We Serve
I, like you, have struggled in this life; some would even call us brave as we battle life’s changing events. We can answer this claim with, “I’m not brave not compared to these men and women who died for our country or sacrificed so much, and when I think of the cross, my Savior took for me, suffering for my sin, well, I am in awe.”
We do it because we can because we must; we do it because of men and women who taught us how to fight with joy and confidence in living a life in service to our Lord. In my past had a call to help them at their lowest point and their many, many stories changed my life. Do it because they taught us how to live! Do it because Jesus died for me, and you, and them.”
We don’t always live as our examples do, perhaps not as brave, but no one can ever take a soldier’s story’s from their memory, and no one can take their faith, unless they give it away, and no one can take your ability to serve, no matter what.
I feel like a soldier, involved in their testimonies, they play in my mind, and I gain strength as if alongside them in their battle. They took us with them, we the people, are why they serve!
We all have a story to tell as we remain in our battle, a spiritual struggle. The stories from those veterans became another reason to serve our King. We are One Nation Under God, and I am blessed, to have learned from those who served in the past and blessed to help with many in the present.
The war rages on every day; we can do much to serve as we live for Christ and help others in our battles here on earth. We will lose battles, but we will win the war, and we will reunite in heaven all the soldiers together! Everyone has a story to tell, make yours count!
God Bless America and God Bless All Of You This Day and be listening for the Stories Of a Soldier!
© 2013 Kathy Henderson