Last November Bill wrote this Veteran’s Day tribute. Thanks to all vets, living and dead, including those so close to me.
In memory of Frank Leavenworth 1918-2010, U.S. Army 1944-1945, and all the veterans who have served.
On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918, Germany signed the armistice ending The Great War. Armistice Day became a national holiday in 1919. In 1954 Armistice Day became Veteran’s Day when Dwight Eisenhower, the general who was elected President after leading the western allies’ defeat of Germany in the next World War signed the bill renaming the holiday.
For many people, Veteran’s Day is just another day off, somewhat inconvenient because it is always on the eleventh, not on a Monday. For disabled veterans who served their country and bear the scars of that service, it is more than a day off. The same is true for the caregivers or survivors of those who served. Those people pause on Veteran’s Day to remember, many visiting a cemetery.
At Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, a stone monument has these words written after the Mexican War of 1847:
The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on Life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents to spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.
The veterans of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and The Great War are gone now. World War II veterans are dying at the rate of 1000 per day, a number that is decreasing as the ranks of those still alive diminish. We try not to think about the Korean War, but the veterans of that lonely war have not forgotten.
Vietnam veterans who did not receive combat wounds from the enemy are learning of a friendly fire wound almost all of them or their children may bear, to some degree, the effects of Agent Orange . Once scorned, now honored, they are leaving us in increasing numbers.
We now have Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, many who have terrible wounds from roadside bombs, respiratory problems from burning oil wells, and possible effects from depleted uranium warheads. Many veterans of all of our wars have come home with post traumatic stress disorder. They and their caregivers and loved ones know the horror of war does not stop when the guns go silent.
Frank Leavenworth was 26, married with one child and one on the way when he was drafted in 1944. He was assigned to the Fourth Infantry Division in Germany not long after the Battle of the Bulge. He was carrying some machine gun ammunition when he was shot in the thigh. His service was brief but painful.
After his convalescence in an Army hospital in Oklahoma, Frank rejoined his family and entered into civilian life. The first few years were rough, a succession of jobs, moves, and unsuccessful ventures until he started work in a Seattle department store selling carpet. He found a successful career and retired as a manufacturer’s rep with a showroom on the edge of the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. I believe his initial difficulties as a civilian were due to PTSD, but we will never know for sure. His disability compensation from the VA was important in those first years.
He bore his scars to his death this year. He joins the list of those who served and are gone. I am proud to have been one of his caregivers.
Bill, U.S. Army 1962-1965