Archived Story

Remember our veterans

Published 11:36am Friday, November 9, 2012

The older I get, the more I realize I compartmentalize.

Instead of dealing with difficult feelings or anxiety, I tend to pack them all up – nice and tidy – and store them in the deep recesses of my mind.

Over time, my brain is slowly transforming into a garage that no one has been able to park a car in for years. In the front of the garage, there are unsealed boxes of information and memories that I still pull out and use. But in the back, there are dusty, taped-up crates labeled simply “do not open.”

They usually stay that way – packed up, but not forgotten. There they can’t harm me as long as they remain sealed.

I spent Thursday morning at a Veterans Day Program at Dadeville High School, one of many I have covered throughout my years as a journalist.

My eyes drifted from the slideshow to the crowd. Some people were drying their eyes. Others were sniffling.

One sniff was loud, however – it was close. And as I felt my right sleeve cuff rub across my eye, I realized those tell-tale crying noises were coming from me.

I tried to regain my composure, but seeing the World War II veterans had cracked one of my crates. The levy was failing, and it was only a matter of time before the flood of emotions escaped.

I made it through the rest of the ceremony, but barely. Before I could make it to my car, I was sobbing.

Everyone has that one relative that you just have a special bond with. For me, that was my grandfather, Howard Burke.

Grandpa Burke lived in Buffalo, New York, and I only got to see him about once a year. But I looked forward to that trip more than my birthday and Christmas combined.

Howard died July 14, 2006. It was the hardest loss I have ever dealt with, and rather than deal with it, it’s been easier to just try to ignore it.

Grandpa left me his Marine dress uniform when he died. So when I saw someone else’s loved one during the veteran slideshow in a similar uniform, all my attempts to block out the painful thoughts failed.

But I am grateful for Veterans Day programs like the one I attended at DHS.

For a lot of people, the memory of these veterans, some who died in the line of duty, is a lot to handle emotionally.

The veterans themselves may find it hard to think about their time in the service. They have seen the horrors of war, things no person ever should have to deal with.

But these programs remind us to never forget the sacrifices our countrymen have made. Their selflessness and bravery should never been forgotten, however uncomfortable it makes us feel.

So on Sunday, keep the memory of all our veterans alive – it’s the least we can do.

Nelson is news editor for The Outlook.

  • wildflower

    Thank you Austin for this poignant article. I am a Vietnam War era veteran, my oldest son was a veteran during the Desert Shield time, and I have many ancestors who were veterans. Veterans Day has special meaning to me, and I appreciate the sensitivity with which you have brought attention to this day.

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