On a day like this, I usually try not to think about it. I don’t like to get into war. I don’t like to think about how many men and women have died in its zealous shadow. More than that, I don’t like to think about the cause that propelled them to care enough to sacrifice their own lives. Because it had to have been horrible. People had to have been suppressed somewhere in the world, for them to have been there — for the US to become involved. Of course that is not the only reason we invade places, but I like to think it’s the reason why citizens become soldiers, to help other people. Veteran’s Day makes me feel like one extremely selfish person. Not to mention cowardly. It is a travesty how many loved ones have been lost. There are no words to describe the feeling of gratitude that someone has toward a person who has protected them. If not for actual protection, at least for the feeling of having it.
Although I have considered it in multiple points of my life, I have never been in the armed services. However, my grandpa, Papa Nick, was. He was a Marine. I wear his Marine bracelet proudly. I found his bracelet shortly after my aunt passed away, and I was digging through the family things she left behind. I never met my grandpa. Actually that’s a lie. He died very shortly after I was born from lung cancer, but according to my mom he used to take me and my sister (we are twins) when we were wee little things, and he would hold us, one in each arm, and take us into his bedroom and nap with us. I like to think he told us all the secrets he learned, that he told me how to dig deep and be brave. He told me the only kind of guy he would accept to be my husband, and promised me he wouldn’t let anything harm us. It is so odd how even now I feel him. I feel him all the time. When I was little I used to think about him watching over me when I was going through something hard, and I would hold out my hand, and I swear I could feel him hold my hand back.
This grew into writing letters. I write my grandfather letters all the time. I used to do so more when I was younger. I would write him and then rip up the letter into a million pieces and say a prayer and then throw it out the window — to the wind and to his spirit. At the time I didn’t realize I was littering. Now, I don’t rip them up and throw them to the wind. Later on, my great-grandfather, Raymond Atherton, on my step-dad’s side (who has turned into a wise, grandfather-like figure) would pass away, and eventually I started writing letters to both of them. My “grandad” as we called him, was alive long enough for me to know him. I will never forget his hugs and his smile. He laughed so much. He helped coach me through those tough years of adolescence. He hugged me without any questions and set the bar for father-figures in my family.
They were both World War II veterans. I know that Ray was in the Navy, and I heard him only tell positive stories from his time at war, although my great-grandmother tells me his experience was all but positive. I see him as so wise and kind, I can’t imagine him at war. He must have hated it.
My Papa Nick flew a Corsair fighter plane. In a picture he has next to it, the plane has a giant pelican caricature flexing his muscles with a fighter jacket on. Next to it was written, “The Ragin’ Cajun,” his nick-name. I wear his Marine bracelet every day. But I think about it the most when I fly. I might not be flying the plane, but I like to thing my grandpa is up there behind the wheel ensuring I land safely.
To the men and women who have dedicated their lives to fighting for the United States of America and everything it symbolizes. I don’t deserve to wear this bracelet, but it reminds me every day of the price people pay for the freedoms we have. I extend to you a thank you. Thank you for your time, and your bravery. Thank you for your sacrifice.