The Eleventh Hour
Eleven o’clock on the eleventh day of November.
The eleventh hour… “the last possible moment before it’s too late.”
The eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
That was when peace negotiations began in 1913, bringing World War I to an end. Armistice Day. A day to lay down arms. Armistice Day eventually became Veterans Day and is officially recognized each year on November 11.
Don’t worry. This post isn’t a history lesson. It is a post about friendship and an appreciation of the freedom and peace we share because of others who were willing to take a stand.
The day before the official celebration recognizing Veterans Day, seven of us met at a small café near the Veterans Memorial Park and Museum in Tampa, Florida. All of us grew up in the area. All but one of our group graduated from the same high school, Chamberlain. Our high school had established a plaque in the park with the names of those classmates we lost in Vietnam. Names we recognized. Boys we knew.
|The Chiefs We Lost in Vietnam|
(Thank you Sandee LaRocca for this shot.)
We walked through the park, sharing stories of our fathers and grandfathers, of uncles and friends who were forever marked by the blood of fellow soldiers in nearly every modern war starting with World War II.
Mike’s dad, Hugh Tyler, dreamed of becoming a doctor. As the next to the youngest of ten orphaned children, his ambition may have seemed unattainable. But Hugh Tyler was not to be stopped. He worked hard all through school and entered the University of Florida in the pre-med program.
Then came World War II.
Mike’s dad stepped up to serve his country. Because of his pre-med classes, he served as a medic. He was acting in that role on June 6, 1944. D-Day. The carnage was unimaginable, the beach red with blood. Advancing soldiers had to step over the shattered bodies of their friends and comrades, shot down in the water or on the now blood soaked shore. Hugh Tyler returned from the war forever changed. He decided on a career as a dentist instead of medicine.
My Uncle Noah returned from Vietnam a highly decorated Marine in an unimaginable war. He was honored for his heroism, but what I remember most was the haunting effect Vietnam had on him. I remember him putting his boots up on the chest of drawers every night. He explained to me it was a habit. In Vietnam, it was a way to keep water and snakes out of his boots. And I remember the nightmares... and my mother in the next room, praying him through them.
Veterans Park isn’t merely to honor those fallen soldiers, it is also recognizing and honoring those who pushed through the oceans and swamps, hiked the deserts, and climbed the rocks. Those who fought on land, in the air, and on water.
Those men and women who sacrificed time with their families so we could spend time with ours.
The park is a peaceful place. There are no sounds of gunfire. No fear of attack. No rumblings of army tanks or strafing by airplanes. It is a place of reflection and honor and commitment.
As I ponder the experience, it strikes me how we as a nation are becoming desensitized to the vulgarity of war and the carnage of lost battles. We tend to cast off the painful memories often trapped in the minds of soldiers, expecting them to recover… to “get back to normal.”
Now we watch wars unfold on television. If the sounds of gunfire are too intense, we turn the volume down. We don’t hear the cries of those who have fallen. We don’t smell the smoke. If it becomes too difficult to watch, we turn it off.
This week many people across our nation recognized Veterans Day with parades, salutes, and celebrations.
But for the seven of us, it was a quiet walk through a peaceful park, buoyed by gratitude for those who went before us.
Thank you ahead of time for sharing this post.