View from a Sawmill: A Richer LifeThere are times when I am reminded that my life has been enriched by the service and courage of others.
By: Greg Hull, Lake County News Chronicle
There are times when I am reminded that my life has been enriched by the service and courage of others. It’s something I need to be reminded of, and challenged about. A few weeks ago I went with my father to his USMC reunion. Most of the veterans of B Company out of Duluth are now grey-haired and stooped with arthritis.
I’m often told I’m loud, and need to lower my voice. Compared to a room of these guys, I’m about as noisy as a church mouse. A combination of trigger-time and artillery along with the wear of encroaching years has made most of them more than a little hard-of-hearing. They talk loud to compensate. But even without the volume, their stories are gripping.
These are men for whom the terms Inchon, Pusan, Chosin and the Yalu are not merely geographical or historical labels, but the names of places where they fought back the Communist invasion of South Korea. In November of 1950, 16,000 UN troops were hit by 10 Chinese divisions, who invaded Korea along with a bitter Manchurian winter. Without adequate food, gear or support, in temps that reached 30 below zero with 70 below windchills, these local men were part of a group that held back the invaders long enough to evacuate more than 100,000 Korean refugees.
For more than seven weeks they went without a hot meal, a shower, or even a change of socks while the battles raged. After nearly 60 years they still show the ravages of that horrific time - fingers and toes lost to frostbite; the physical scars from bullets and shrapnel; the emotional wounds which have faded, but never disappeared. They remember the guys who didn’t make it home.
They will tell of the heroic acts that others in the company preformed, but never mentioned their own actions that kept them alive and moving. One can see they are justifiably proud of each other and what they did, even if it was in a forgotten war.
Tonight, my oldest son Joshua, who serves in the US Army, is preparing his gear to return for a third time to the Afghan mountains. He has served twice on the Forgotten Front in the War on Terror, and is returning without complaint (in my hearing anyway) to the combat work of interdiction along the Pakistani border. “Wars,” it has been said, “come to an end. War never will.”
While I have never witnessed combat first-hand, what I have witnessed is the price paid by those who return as they struggle to come to grips with what they have seen, heard and done. Yet tonight there are families in Korea whose lives have been much different because of the sacrifice of some Marines from Duluth who did their patriotic chore without murmur.
There are families living in southern Afghanistan who are alive and have a measure of hope because other soldiers from Two Harbors and Duluth have with courage and determination stood up to the challenges they faced.
Shele and I are by no means alone among those who wait for the long year to end so son or daughter, husband or wife, sister or brother, can come home. A working mom whose son flies Blackhawks; a mom and dad whose son commands combat troops - there are many of us who have Blue Stars hanging in a window of our homes.
We pray fervently each day for our children, and try not to listen too closely to the news, while we await the emails and phone calls that let us know things are as well as they can be. We earnestly hope and pray they will not be like Mac, who was in Vietnam “about 15 minutes too long.”
Sacrifice comes in many shapes and forms. Some are bold and obvious, more often it is quiet and unobtrusive. But sacrifice has always been the requirement of a prosperous and effective society. Sacrifice is predicated upon courage – the refusal to be overcome by either fear or apathy and face whatever task needs to be done. “The task,” said Kierkegaard, “must be made difficult, for only the difficult inspires us.”
There is so much today that is difficult by itself that we need not make anything more difficult than it is. Health care, the national debt, immoral and unethical political leaders, economic strains, environmental problems - the list seems endless. It is easier to succumb to despair and apathy than continue the hard task of slogging ahead to find the solutions.
But by courage and with sacrifice many have served. Consequently lives have been enriched. Being the “young kid” in a room of elderly Marine veterans reminds me of that. So does seeing a Blue Star hang in someone’s kitchen window, or yellow ribbons around a mailbox post.
Maybe our courage and sacrifice can make their lives richer at the same time.
Greg Hull is owner and operator of Hull’s Sawmill. His Grandfather fought in WWI, his father in WWII and Korea. His brother served during the Cold War, and his son during the War on Terror. Some have commented that his family seems to have problems getting along with others. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.