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A soldier’s memory

PJ Martin

The Herald-News


Veterans Day is upon us and I can’t help but think of my late father-in-law, Ray Martin. I realize Veteran’s Day is a time to remember those who are now or have served and are still with us, but Ray taught me more about WWII and the military than any textbook ever could.

WWII was raging when Ray was drafted. He ended up in the infantry on the front lines. Not a place anyone ever wants to be. He was in Patton’s Third Army and he said it seemed like they were always on the move, day or night, rain or shine.

I remember Ray telling me how they had been on the move for days without food and they came upon a German family’s cellar where they found jars of preserved food. He said they grabbed what they could and ate as they ran. Some might balk at the theft, but during a war, it is a necessity of life.

Ray also talked many times about his Infantry coming upon the concentration camp Dachau. When I see someone on the TV news blabbering that the Holocaust never happened, it infuriates me. They are so very blind to the truth. Ray sometimes spoke of the horrors he saw there when the memories were too much to keep to himself. I can’t even imagine seeing the atrocities he saw and trying to sleep at night.

Anyone who has served during a war, who had to live every minute of every day with a heightened awareness of their surroundings just trying to stay alive then coming home and trying to adjust to civilian life again, has to be torture. Plus, trying to get the horrors they saw out of their mind. As I learned from Ray that never goes away completely no matter how many years pass.

I’ve known people who served at Pearl Harbor, fought in Germany and France, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. I am thankful for each and every one of those who have served this country whether drafted or by choice, in peace or at war. Today many take that service for granted, because they were not taught the full truth about history. History books never relay the horrors.

The generation growing up today has not lived through a full-blown war. They cannot grasp the picture of what it does to a country and what the loss of a family member to war feels like. I hope and pray they never feel that pain. It is our responsibility to teach them the true history so that they might not repeat it so easily. Perhaps, a combat veteran needs to teach them so they might then understand.

I pray there is never another war.


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