I grew up during the Vietnam era and although technically I am a ‘baby boomer’, born in 1962, I never related much to people who came of age during the 60’s, summer of love, anti-war protests. I do admit loving the clothes, the music and wishing I could be a hippie! I was ten years old in 1972 and so wanted to go wear flowers in my hair and hang out at Haight Ashbury!
I didn’t have a real grasp on the gravity of that war. I do remember feeling sorry and bad for the men that were Vietnam war veterans as they came home to people being mean to them. But, in the 6th grade I was so happy to get a POW bracelet. Yes, it was a fashion statement to my twelve year old mind, but it also meant I had a connection with a man sitting in a little cell in some strange country, I only had ever heard about through television and the low whispers of my parents as they shook their heads and listened to Walter Cronkite. I was too young to go to protests or sit ins or whatever…I did my minuscule part by wearing my bracelet every day.
My dad had been in Korea. Korea was the forgotten war. The war that wasn’t as “heroic” as WWII or controversial as Vietnam. My dad, being the kind of guy to always make light of even the most awful of experiences, said the worst part was the food!
“Beans, beans, beans.” he would say, “For breakfast, BEANS, for lunch, BEANS….Then guess what we would have for dinner?” went the joke…”BEANS!” On occasion he would slip into revealing the horror. Below freezing nights buried in a wet, damp foxhole. Marching 20,30,40 miles, bloody feet and holes in boots.
|Korean War Memorial Washington DC|
|My Dad Robert A Paysinger.|
But honestly…my dad grew up in the Great Depression and even though his family was dirt poor. (sharecroppers from Texas definitely were not part of the 1%), he always shared Depression stories with a little bit of wistfulness. People worked together, took care of each other. I am sure he blocked out, let go of and didn’t remember the degradation of poverty as a way to cope and besides “EVERYONE was poor”, he rationalized.
The war in Korea was different. He rarely shared about it. It was just something you did in 1952, like your brothers before you. (His brother, Hugh Paysinger served in World War II. His dad in World War I). My dad’s family wasn’t the elite. No one went to college. Finishing high school was an accomplishment and then getting a job….any job was a gift. His mother worked in a factory for 42cents a day and was grateful for it. They were the backbone of this country. My dad especially. After the war, he became… fittingly a cop. For thirty years he patrolled the town I grew up in. As a teenager I was embarrassed……because I was an ass. But as I got older, I became proud of him. Not only because of his service to his community, but his service to his country. Without complaint, without regret and without a doubt that what he was doing was what men do.
Sometimes when I think of my dad and his generation, I think…‘they don’t make em like that anymore‘, but then I remember my nephews, Robert and Joey Paysinger. Robert for serving in Iraq, before the surge….Joey serving in the Air Force. I think of the little waitress at a restaurant we like to go to to watch football on Sundays. Amanda had lost a lot of weight and I asked her, ‘what’s your secret?”. She confided in me that her boyfriend had just been sent to Afghanistan and she was worried sick and couldn’t eat. I thanked her for her serve and his and was reminded once again that this country still produces men and women like my dad. We Americans are a motley crew indeed. Fighting over politics one day and a few days later united in our love, respect and desire to honor our bravest and best from every generation.
Today instead of my silver POW bracelet, I wear my black bracelet in honor of Sgt. James S. Lee from Mt. Vernon, In. Sgt. Lee was killed in Afghanistan on April 6, 2005. Please click the link and leave a message for his family.
|Sgt. James S. Lee USMC|
A lot has changed since I was a kid and the boys from Vietnam came home with heavy hearts and nasty taunts. Thank goodness we as a country have evolved. Even if we don’t agree with a war, we all agree with our warriors.
It is fitting that Veterans Day comes during the month of Thanks. I only wish I could find more ways to say thank-you. Thank-you to my Dad and your dad, your mom, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your brother/sister, your friends….All of you amaze and inspire me and without you, I wouldn’t be able to write this.
An finally, because America makes the best marching band music EVER…here’s a very cool Armed Forces Medley…