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Southern Eyes

My mother taught me to be a good Southern Belle who knows when to speak and when to simply smile. Unfortunately, Mama's little belle has a big streak of her father in her -- mostly silent and sometimes blunt.

I also have picked up the knack of laughing at almost everything, funny or not. I don't know who I inherited this from. My brother also has this knack, and Mama says she doesn't know where he came from.

This leaves me occasionally laughing at some inappropriate times. So last week, when someone jokingly made a comment, I was surprised at my response. They meant to be funny, but I wasn't laughing.

I guess I really did listen to Mama, even if she accused me otherwise.

The comment came during a casual discussion about working on Veterans Day. One person said they would "be at home laying in bed honoring the veterans." Although they were honest, they obviously had never sat down and talked with a veteran. I had two great-uncles who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, another who was a paratrooper in Vietnam, a cousin who fought in Vietnam and a cousin who served in Desert Storm. They didn't talk often about their experiences, but when they did, it was worth hearing.

Since then, I've had the pleasure of knowing others who have been on the battlefield. And I've read experiences of some I've never met. Their stories are all different, but they have one thing in common -- war is horrific. Imagine desperately trying to stay one step ahead of the enemy's fire, landing in zones you're not certain are cleared, seeing your comrades being killed all around you, and trying to figure a new route out of an area when the original route has been overtaken.

I used to know a lady, the late Fran Plennert, who was an Army nurse on the front lines in Germany during World War II. Hearing her describe working with limited resources to save the lives of others while she didn't know if the next bullet would hit her is something I'll never forget.

I'm sure every single soldier in a war had many days when he or she would rather have been lying in a comfortable bed relaxing. Instead, they slept in bunkers and in tents in foreign lands in extreme heat, cold, rain or snow. They didn't clock out at 5 p.m. and go home to recline in front of the TV. They deserve for us to be out of bed recognizing them, standing and applauding, helping, paying them homage, remembering those who are gone and cheering those who are here, and saying thank you -- not just once a year, but every day.

Web posted on Thursday, November 19, 2009

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