Over the last six months, I’ve conducted more than 40 interviews with West Virginia war veterans for my Voices of War project. I’ve talked to men and women who served their country at the most difficult times possible.
One veteran was a waist gunner on a B-25 Bomber over Europe. His plane made an emergency landing, sliding onto the landing field in England without landing gear. He climbed out of the hatch and pulled every other crew member out of the burning plane.
Another veteran was fighting in Vietnam when he was called on to save his fellow men in a boat in the rice paddies. When their propeller got fouled, he climbed over the side, in the dark while taking fire, and cleared the propeller so they could get away.
I spoke to veterans who served in Iraq who spent their time on duty manning 50 caliber machine guns on HummVees, scanning the roads for roadside bombs.
They literally put their lives on the line for their country and their fellow soldiers. Everyone I’ve spoken to was fundamentally changed by the experience. Every veteran I interviewed said they were proud of their service and would do it again if they could or were called to do so. But every one of them was haunted by the experience as well. All but a few struggled when they came home; many drank too much, others couldn’t sleep. War service brought an end to marriages and careers.
I’m working on a documentary that includes the thoughts and memories of the war veterans that I interviewed. The video below is a sample of the project, featuring music from Jeff Ellis singing his song The Line written while he served in Iraq.
While I specifically interviewed veterans who served in war zones, all veterans have made the same sacrifice; time away from home and family and constant preparation for a time they hoped would never come. Veterans Day is not just those who served their country in time of war, but those who have been willing to do so. The saying goes that veterans wrote a blank check to their country. If it came to it, they would be willing to pay with their lives.
Today, November 11, is Veterans Day. Take a minute to say thank you to a Veteran.
If you want to learn more about the Voices of War project, you can do so at these previous blog posts.