Remembering the Soldiers

31 Oct

It was during a trip to the dump (city landfill) with my dad that I learned a lesson about war I’ve never forgotten.

My dad served in World War 2. He was part of the Italian Campaign, the liberation of Sicily and Rome, and I have no doubt he saw some serious action during that time.  Like any kid of ten I was curious about war, and like any kid I had this romanticized version of it, the good guys overpowering the bad guys, a sanitized version based on the games we kids played in the neighborhood, bang-bang, you’re dead, raise the flag and whooping and hollering in victory . . . then go home for lunch and play some baseball.

So on this trip to the dump I asked my dad what it was like, being a soldier, killing the enemy, that sort of thing.

He stopped what he was doing, which was unloading the trailer and tossing our junk into the big pile, and he stared off into the distance, most likely seeing the bunkers, smelling the smoke, and hearing the sounds of agony.  He shook his head, clearing it of those memories, and he told me war was not something you spoke about, that there is no glory in taking a life, not for freedom and not for any other political or philosophical reason.

“It’s something we had to do, son,” he told me.  “But I didn’t know anyone who took pride in it.”

My dad and his parents

Since then I’ve heard similar statements from Vietnam vets and more recently from Desert Storm survivors.

What does this all have to do with writing?

We writers chronicle the human experience, or so it seems to me.  I will be forever grateful that I did not have to experience war firsthand, but I do need to understand it as best I can.  My characters need to reflect the words of my father and other veterans in order to be believable.

And so I observe . . . and I remember what I’ve observed, and heard . . . and eventually those memories become part of a story.


“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

23 Responses to “Remembering the Soldiers”

  1. Janine Huldie October 31, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    Beautiful reminder, Bill and your dad truly (from this and so much more) sounded like a wise and amazing man. That said, appreciate your sharing your memory of this, as well as your dad’s words with us. Have a wonderful Tuesday and Halloween now, too.

    • Billybuc October 31, 2017 at 5:42 pm #

      Thank you Janine! You would have appreciated my father for sure. Happy Halloween to you too.

  2. the dune mouse (CybeleMoon) October 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm #

    well told!

  3. 1authorcygnetbrown October 31, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

    This is exactly why I write what I write too. History isn’t just about dates and battles, its about people who lived and breathed. Nothing makes better stories than his-story.

    • Billybuc October 31, 2017 at 9:52 pm #

      I love it, Donna….his-story!

  4. Mike November 1, 2017 at 2:46 am #

    Your Dad was a wise man. Lucky he took the time to pass on some of this hard earned insights. It turns out that these men ended up just fighting for each other. Fighting hard, to get through it. The goal to go home. All philosophy be damned.

    • Billybuc November 1, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

      Yessir, Mike…the goal is to go home, nothing more, nothing less. I’ve heard many a soldier say that.

  5. MartieCoetser November 1, 2017 at 5:45 pm #

    When my friend talks about his experience in SA’s ‘Bush War’ (Border War 1966 – 1989), tears gather in his eyes and his entire flesh creep. My brothers refuse to talk about theirs, as they, too, get emotional.

    War is and will always be a traumatic experience for the individual soldier. Only the leaders causing/instigating the war have the audacity to take pride.

    Billybuc, if you were ten during WWII, you must have been born between 1931 and 1935. I thought you were much younger. Well, you don’t look a day older than 60.

    • Billybuc November 1, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

      No Martie, I was ten when I asked my dad about the way…that would be in 1958 or so. I’ll have to re-read my post and see what the confusion was.

  6. rollyachabotbooks November 1, 2017 at 10:21 pm #

    Hi Bill:
    This brought back memories of my asking my dad much the same question. His answer was much the same.
    I served in the reservist when I was younger. My division was in the tank core and some infantry. The power and destruction of the tank is something you have to see to see to understand. It set into motion the desire to live in peace. I recall dad saying you never want to see what real war is like son.

    Keep sharing Bill, we have been tasked to write of good.

    Blessings Bill…

    • Billybuc November 2, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

      Totally agree with you, Rolly, tasked to write of good. I love that thought.

      Hugs from chilly Olympia

  7. Sageleaf November 2, 2017 at 1:51 am #

    From what I’ve read, you’re incredible at making your story believable. You’re incredible at it, in fact. Your dad was a wise dude. And it seems that was a common thing: not to talk about the tragedies of war after returning to “regular life.” John’s dad was in Sicily in WW2 and whenever John asked him about it, he would always say something similar to what your dad said. My dad didn’t go to Vietnam. Instead, he was stationed in Alaska during the Vietnam War, working on radar stations. His stories are very different from the vets coming back from war. Life was hard up there, yes, but…his “worst” story was getting struck by lightning while working on one of the outer antennas. That was a life-changing event, but still….I have to say that the stories of all these people – on both sides of the war – are just incredible and they deserve so much respect. 🙂

    • Billybuc November 2, 2017 at 1:40 pm #

      Thanks so much, Lil Sis! I’m in no way a proponent of war, but I do greatly appreciate the sacrifices made in the past. I just try to capture the spirit of it through the stories I’ve been told.

  8. phoenix2327 November 2, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    I come from a long line of military who have served in various conflicts. Consequently, I know virtually nothing of what really happened. They don’t talk about it. It must not be a pleasant subject. Yet, they do almost nothing to dissuade the younger generation from joining up. They encourage their children, in fact. I don’t get that.

    I was in the Air Force during Desert Storm 1.0 and saw for myself the results of that conflict. Some many people returned with vacant eyes and not a lot to say. It was sobering to say the least.

    • Billybuc November 2, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

      Zulma, I had no idea you were in the Air Force. Thank you for sharing that. The reactions of soldiers who saw conflict always seem to be the same. I question whether human beings were ever meant to see such things.

  9. Lawrence Hebb November 5, 2017 at 8:26 am #

    I read this and first thought of my own Grandfather. He went all the way through North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy, all on the front line and without a scratch, only to get wounded one week before the end of the war in London!
    Then I thought of myself, having served and having stood on the ‘other side’ as a relief worker, seeing the carnage that happens when people can’t stand up for themselves!
    Soldiers, Sailors and Air Force people don’t make the decisions, but I’m sure glad that they’re there to ‘Stand up’ for those who can’t!
    Hats off to them all.

  10. Lawrence Hebb November 5, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    By the way Bill, when I asked my Grandfather what it was like, all he said was, “They weren’t as stupid as the movies make out!”

    • Billybuc November 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

      Thanks for sharing all that, Lawrence! It helps to hear from those who served. It brings a certain level of understanding regarding war. The human factor can never be overlooked.

  11. phoenix2327 November 12, 2017 at 10:03 am #

    I watched the Remembrance Day ceremony on TV last night as I have done every year since moving to the UK. It’s always moving and heartening to see all the people who have sacrificed in the past and those who will sacrifice in the future on our behalf.

    This year it was particularly so because the emergency services (police, firefighters, paramedics etc) were recognized and honoured for their heroism during the bombing in Manchester and terrorist acts in London. It’s a sobering reminder that wars aren’t always ‘over there.’ Sometimes it can be right on your doorstep.

    • Billybuc November 12, 2017 at 3:56 pm #

      Zulma, you are so correct. My father never talked about the war. I have a good friend who refuses to talk about Vietnam. But you could see the changes in both of them once they returned from the front lines. They had paid the price and would continue to pay it as long as they lived.

      • phoenix2327 November 12, 2017 at 4:06 pm #

        I imagine not talking about it means they don’t have to relive those horrors. It must be a protective reflex the mind does to keep you from going completely insane. Sadly, that only works for so long.

      • Billybuc November 12, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

        Truth, Zulma! For a long-term solution, it sucks!

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