ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

THANK YOU, VETERANS

Bud shook his head slowly as he re-read the letter from President Roosevelt.

"Greetings," it said. "You are hereby ordered to report to your local draft board for induction in the United States Army."

He couldn't believe it. They were actually drafting a 33-year-old father of four-going-on-five. He had heard that the Allied effort in World War II was struggling, but he had no idea that it was going so badly that they were taking elderly family men and turning them into cannon fodder.

But here was the evidence. Suddenly he feared for the safety of the Republic, especially if its existence was to be entrusted to an army of fighting insurance salesmen. He couldn't help but chuckle at the notion. Perhaps he and his similarly aged colleagues could form a wheelchair brigade, or a cane-wielding platoon. Surely the could out-percussion any Army drum corps with the creaking of their joints. Or the breaking of their brittle bones.

He was still snickering when he finally got around to sharing the letter with Wanda.

"You've been WHAT?" she gasped, even before he could lay the wheelchair line on her.

"You know - drafted. `This is the Army, Mr. Jones,'" he sang. "Pretty funny, huh?"

"Funny?" She was gasping again. "Bob Hope is funny. Abbott and Costello are funny. But you being carted off to fight in some terrible war, leaving me alone with four kids and pregnant with another . . . that isn't funny." Her voice trailed off into muffled sobs as she buried her face in her husband's chest.

Suddenly, it didn't seem all that funny to Bud, either.

Neither of them got much sleep that night as they wrestled with shared loyalties. They loved their country and wanted to do their part for the war effort. But how could they easily accept draft orders that would split up their young family - perhaps permanently?

When if finally came down to it, there really was no choice. Despite his misgivings, he would do his duty. But if he was going to fight this war, he wanted to go where he would do some good (as opposed to the infantry, where he was sure he would be more of a liability than an asset). He asked the Army for a 30-day extension, during which he applied for - and received - a commission as an officer in the Navy. After training as one of the Navy's "90-day wonders," he was sent to Pearl Harbor, where he worked for more than two years in communications.

Wanda, meanwhile, served her tour of duty at home, trying as best she could to be mother and father to five children while working a variety of odd jobs to supplement Bud's meager military income. It was a time of sacrifice, inconvenience, loneliness and fear. But like so many others on both sides of the Pacific, they endured it - and they survived.

Although Veteran's Day tends to get lost in the advancing rush of holiday festivities, it's a good time to pause to remember the sacrifices so many families have made in responding to their country's call. It's never easy to leave home, no matter how noble the cause. Nor is there ever a convenient time to send loved ones to war. Countless sacrifices have been made on both fronts - the battlefield and at home - including the ultimate sacrifice. Such is the price we pay for the freedoms that were purchased in a revolutionary marketplace of inconvenient sacrifice and blood.

I thank God for those freedoms. And I thank God for those who have served or who have sent loved ones to serve in protection of those freedoms. You have anointed this land with your tears, and sanctified it with your service.

With or without a special invitation from FDR.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.