Interesting stories from our Veterans

Andrea Joseph

Every now and then I like to head over to Live Oak Adult Day Services in Gilroy for an hour or so to hang out and talk with the seniors. Not only does it give me a little break from the office, but sometimes I get to hear some story gems.
I’m generally not a big talker, so the employees will usually hand me a sheet of trivia or interesting facts to discuss. I’ll sit in a circle with a variety of folks and the conversations start as one thing and quite often veer off onto other paths.
This is what happened during my visit last week, when 13 seniors and myself sat around chatting about our various travels, which included everything from Scotland and Belgium to Haiti.
It was during this exchange, as it twisted and turned into stories about military travels, I realized I was in the presence of several veterans.
I come from a family with many veterans—uncles, cousins, my dad—and know sometimes it’s difficult for them to talk about their experiences. My dad, who was drafted and served in Vietnam, doesn’t talk much unless telling funny stories about he and his Army buddies, pranks they’d pull on each other, ways they’d keep themselves entertained.
An uncle of mine served in the Navy aboard the Nautilus—the world’s first operational nuclear powered submarine.
Three great-uncles—my maternal grandmother’s brothers—fought in World War II and I grew up hearing their many stories. Two of them were captured by the Japanese in the Philippines and taken to Japan. When they went missing, officials were sent into the field to find the third brother who was still fighting, similar to the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” When he was located, he was sent back home to the United States to be with my great-grandparents while they waited for news on their other two sons who were missing. After 3.5 years as prisoners of war, my two great-uncles were liberated and both returned home.
Another great-uncle—my maternal grandfather’s brother—fought in WWII and lost one leg and the other foot when he stepped on a landmine.
Having heard about family members’ various military experiences throughout my years has made me especially proud of and touched by the difficulties veterans face on my behalf, on behalf of all of us.
So when I came to the realization that many of the people sitting with me had served in long-past wars, I was honored.
These men served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam and were first-hand witnesses to some of the most dramatic, frightening and patriotic times this country has ever seen.
One man even met and married his wife while stationed in Japan. The United States refused to recognize the marriage at the time, and though the couple had a child, he was shipped back to the U.S.—without his wife and daughter. A letter written to Congressman Charles Gubser by a family member eventually led to the passage of a Congressional act in 1955 that allowed the family—and those who came afterward—to reside in the U.S. They currently live in Gilroy and have been married for more than six decades.
Veterans—both young and old—have so much history to share, so much experience to offer. Let’s honor their service and listen to their stories while we can—because once they’re gone, so are the personal stories of their first-hand experiences and military histories.

Leave your comments