I recently wrote an article for Big Buds Magazine about veterans and medical marijuana. I interviewed two vets and their wives about cannabis and their experiences in the armed forces. As they recounted their experiences, I was reminded of my own father.
When he turned 19, my father was drafted to fight in World War II, but he shielded my brothers and me from his experiences. With the exception of him telling us he and his unit were stranded on an island off Hiroshima and that they saw the mushroom cloud of the atomic bomb when it was dropped on August 6, 1945, I know nothing else about the four years he spent in the United States Navy.
In fact, I didn't know what branch of the armed forces he was in until after I met my husband. Paul was in the U.S. Marines and I guess they had more in common, so my father told Paul everything. I wasn't present for the conversation, but I later learned it was the Navy.
The photo of my father in the Navy was actually given to Paul, not me.
WWII Vets: Not As Apt to Share Their Experiences As Today's Vets
Without going into detail, he told my brothers and me his four years in the military, fighting the second of two world wars, was mostly to blame for why he was so angry and depressed all the time. I knew a lot of men his age who also served during WWII, and like my father, none of them talked about what happened during the war. It’s not like today where soldiers and veterans are encouraged to talk about it and identify whatever the psychological and physical damage inflicted on them.
Not only did we not grow up in a home that honored the sacrifices he made for his country, my father encouraged us to protest every military action taken by the U.S. He discouraged us from enlisting in any branch of the armed forces and when I started dating a man in the Air Force 30 years ago, he told me no good can come from marrying someone who can be sent off to war.
“Sometimes they die and sometimes they relive the horror everyday for the rest of their lives. They and their families will never know peace again.” It was the one and only time he ever used the expression shell shocked to describe what he went through.
As I wrote the article for Big Buds, I was finally to put my father’s advice in context. I wasn’t prepared to be moved the way I have been. Although I’ve felt for a long time the U.S. government doesn’t treat vets with the respect they deserve, it’s not same as being given a front row seat for the anguish, the courage, the strength, the teetering between wanting to give up and the need to triumph and the optimism these vets and their families go through each and every day.
I just wanted to do something I was never encouraged to do when my father was alive. Dad, happy Veterans Day and thank you.