There is no way to describe fully the moment that I got it. It was electric. It shook me to my inner core. It changed my outlook on life.
Sumpter, Oregon’s Labor Day flea market a few years ago. The vegetation was worn out after a summer of heat and little rain. Vendors of everything from antiques to socks were spread over and through the town. I was not expecting an electric moment. I was expecting cool junk. I found cool junk. Then we sat down to eat a breakfast burrito.
Across the vinyl covered picnic table sat another couple and of course Jim and Dottie being Jim and Dottie, we struck up a conversation. I wish I remembered more about them. What I remember is that he was a Vietnam vet. I remember his hand reaching across that table and my husband’s reaching back. I remember that clasp. I remember their expressions. Recollection. Connection. Relief. Sadness. Hello and goodbye, my brother. More that I could not read, nor did I want to. Their heads, nodded toward one another. Their smiles, those tight together lips that try to lift at the corners but cannot quite… And I, finally got it.
I did not know my husband before he went to war. I suspect the man he was then was very similar to the man he is today. I know that he is in some ways not the man he was before. He was a Navy medic. There were treks with marines through jungles and swamps. There were physically and mentally broken men, boys actually that he tended to, that he carried to the helicopters. There was an orphanage where he spent time, visiting children. People wanted to kill him every hour of every day. He came back to taunts of baby killer. Murderer. I did not know him then. I know him now.
War IS hell. He walked through it. He lived it. He lived through hell.
This man reminds me with his life that the things important to we who have not experienced war often seem shallow to those who have. The things that often rob our attention and muddy our thoughts are the things that swim around the important things. My husband seldom reminds me verbally, but often, daily even reminds me in the way he approaches life just what the important things are. All I have to do is pay attention.
My husband is a blessing to me. His presence on this earth is a blessing to it. He is a quiet and extraordinary hero. He is a veteran.