Janet Sheridan: Thank you so much
I sat on a bench behind Veterans Hall, home of the VFW and American Legion. Warm air stirred beneath an easygoing sky as the sun bathed trees still green and accented the orange leaves already flaunted by a few. The October day seemed hushed as I studied the memorial that honors the Moffat County veterans of WWII for their service and sacrifice.
Thirty names are listed on a marble base topped by a statue: thirty men from Moffat County who died while serving their country. As I read their names, I pictured them hunting in the mountains that surround the Yampa Valley, fishing in the river that wanders the edge of town, ranching a remote area reached by a graveled road. I saw them sitting in the classrooms of Moffat County High School, driving Craig’s streets, entering its stores, picnicking in its parks with their families: living, loving, laughing.
As fall builds to a crescendo before submitting to the ascendance of winter, Veterans Day gives us an opportunity to honor these local men who gave their lives and to remember all the men and women from across our county and country who have served in the military branches of the United States of America.
Most of us have been touched by war and can point to ancestors who served: those who came home whole, those who came home injured or altered, those who never came home. My great uncles served in WWI, and my uncles in WWII. All returned to their families; but I remember holding my mother’s hand and staring with the curiosity of a child at my older cousin, Milton — his wheelchair, his violently scarred face, the stumps where his legs should have been. Later, when I said the man in the wheelchair scared me, my dad explained Milton was a handsome, happy young man until, fighting in the war in Korea, he drove his jeep over a land mine. “I think he would like it if you talked to him next time, Janet.”
About that same time, I remember listening to the sound of my mother crying after my oldest brother came home from college to tell her he had enlisted in the Marines and would probably be going to the same war that injured our cousin. Fifteen years later, I remember living from letter to letter, my stomach knotted with anxiety, while my husband, Bill, served 18 months in Vietnam. But never have I had to mourn a loved one taken by war.
I know many of today’s veterans return disabled or troubled, while others appear to go on with their lives unchanged — though we can never be certain. I also know all who served deserve to receive the treatment and support they need and to be held close in our hearts on Saturday, Nov. 11.
When I see veterans from any war marching in a parade, walking through an airport, being interviewed on TV or featured in a newspaper, I feel saddened by what they had to endure and grateful for their service, which allows us to live the lives we do; so, I whisper, “Thank you; thank you so much.”
Before leaving the memorial, I studied the bronze statue that tops it. The artwork depicts a young man on full alert dressed in combat uniform, from his steel helmet to his double-belted boots. He strides forward carrying the implements of war and survival: rifle, ammunition, grenades, combat knife, pack, entrenchment tool, canteen. He stands on the edge of Veterans Park with its woodcarvings, acres of grass, old trees and swimming pools now closed for the season; so, I believe, during the months of summer, the happy noises of children at play reach him. And I’m glad.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at auntbeulah.com the first and 15th of every month.