Holy pancakes you guys, well actually just regular pancakes.
These blogs now have a tendency to start out with me profusely apologizing for elongated absences, but again I have a good reason. I can promise you that this story is worth the slightly long read.
So I don’t recall if I’ve ever mentioned my love and admiration for Vietnam veterans or my tendency to stop and strike up random conversations in grocery stores, but I live for it. The vast amount of knowledge that I acquire from each soldier is enough to make me think about the things we take for granted, but also the things that we as civilians could never fathom.
My fiance’s great uncle is a purple heart veteran who my fiance and I had the pleasure of meeting about three weeks ago. He told me that he had many stories, but that these stories were not unique to just him. His great uncle was only one of hundreds of thousands of boys who saw the war-torn jungles of Vietnam and were left changed by the unforgiving scenery. His uncle told me of his battle with skin cancer, most likely an effect of the chemical weapon Agent Orange. His mother, who was sitting on the couch beside him, noted his missing fingers.
I look back on that moment and I realize how grateful I was to be able to witness his response.
I watched that man look his hand and smile. He said, “When you have seen what I’ve seen, and you’ve seen some of the vets missing arms and legs, a few fingers is nothing.”
We will never see what a whole generation of veterans is still dealing with. Whatever happens to us can never be as bad as what happened to those men in that jungle.
Towards the end of our conversation, he looked at me again, but this time with a smirk. He learned towards us and said, “I’m dying.”
He told us that this was a fate that he had accepted, but he also told us of his many adventures in life. He balanced the talk of death and appreciation for unique experiences so well. I felt as though his mistakes and successes all just blended into one unique life story that had no time for regret, only lessons. He told the story as if he wanted you to understand that he was only a man.
When I see a veteran at the grocery store I stop and crave the knowlege of a gentleman who knows what it’s truly like to be anxious. The image of hero pushing a shopping cart fighting a silent hell they we could never fathom.
I read about the Vietnam war, but these men are the war and after all these years, the war is still killing them.