We’re four months past Memorial Day, and a month away from Veterans Day. As we look through those nine pages of photographs that appear in this newspaper every May, and observe our neighbors and friends in activities to celebrate military service in November, it is worth a moment to reflect on what it all means.
Those images of uniformed men and women, some dating from almost 80 years ago, are a perfect cross-section of Wilton, and a panorama of places, assignments, and deployments that span the globe. They summon up the old and newer battlefields from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, and a hundred places in between, as well as a hundred bases here at home in support of peacekeeping and defense abroad.
It is surely part of Wilton’s strength and spirit that this peaceful and pleasant place has produced not only warriors and defenders, but leaders, builders, lawyers, physicians, nurses, teachers, businessmen, landscapers, and a host of other practitioners — within the armed services, and afterwards.
Of course, if asked what life experience formed you most, and developed you favorably into the person you have become, a remarkable number would reply: “my time in the military.” They were all young once, and the actual sacrifice, through draft or as a volunteer, was not normally focused upon. A sense of duty, yes. And honor, of course, and the satisfaction of being part of something very important. These were the significant and memorable ingredients of their experience.
Some did not come home. Many returned wounded, scarred, changed in complex ways. We remember them all. And often we think about the actual question of sacrifice itself, and what it really looks like. This column is generally restricted to 650 words. That’s not nearly enough to describe the emotions, the impacts, the grinding pressures, and the everlasting effects of sacrifice.
So in the context of “one picture may be worth a thousand words,” we will offer one brief video — which may replace 10 times as many. Its link appears at the end of this piece. You will find it engaging and interesting. It dates back to almost 75 years ago. Here’s some background.
Wartime in the Pacific in early November, 1944. A damaged plane returns to its carrier with pilot and fatally wounded gunner aboard. A corpsman takes the fingerprints of the 23-year-old, the chaplain performs his duty, as does the bugler, and the sailors aboard complete the stirring ritual at the fantail.
How fortunate we are today that this sacrificial scene in its black and white and stark severity is not too often repeated where our men and women serve. And that few if any home windows in our own neighborhoods will display a gold star. And it’s also fortunate that there are so many remaining veterans to tell the stories of sacrifice to their children and grandchildren.
We need to remember the formative benefits of uniformed service. We need to keep alive the memories of those who have served. We need to work diligently in every way possible to reduce the frequency of scenes such as this one. So that by understanding the meaning of sacrifice and the nature of service, the world we help to create can become truly a better place than it was three-quarters of a century ago.
You can find the video at: https://bit.ly/2Iy1qxJ.
TASC stands for Toward A Stronger Community. Contact: [email protected].