When I think of veterans on their day I picture proud but bowed men now in their seventies and eighties speaking hesitantly about their service a lifetime ago in the killing fields of Europe and Asia. We owe our nation to them, because of their moral strength, their youthful sacrifices, and their country-building ethic.
There has been much courage and dreadful sacrifice by veterans in the intervening years, but for me Veteran’s Day 2004 is a memorial for my favorite veteran, my father, who left us in January of this year at the age of 79.
“They were better than we are,” said the commentator, probably Tom Brokaw, about the generation that saved the world from the last century’s Axis of Evil. The stark statement is true, we know. My father, Harry Jewell, was better than I am, I know.
Dad was a member of what they’re calling The Greatest Generation. He served his country mostly in Italy during World War II, and he was a hero of the American variety—putting his life on the line to save the world, and spending his life to serve his family, assuring their well-being in so many ways.
Dad told very few stories of the War, like most of his comrades in arms who saw their service as opportunities for duty, not celebrity; and didn’t relish the ugly memories. But from time to time we’d pull out a remarkable tale. Such as the time he was racing his jeep across an open field, with German artillery following him, but missing by just a few paces each time. Or the time he and others stepped inside a building, and their friend was obliterated by a shell on the front step. Death was always so close.
A sense of purpose prevailed and soldiers like Dad never asked why. Evil is evil, but men like Dad didn’t have any trouble recognizing it, as many seem to today.
A man of deep faith, my Dad demonstrated his peace with God in his final days and his homegoing. In life and at death he was an example to all of us.
Thank you veterans then and now. And thanks Dad. I miss you.