In little Mount Carroll, Illiniois, a block from my house is the county courthouse and it is graced by several marble monuments with bigger than life-sized statues on the one, flanked by two cannons from the Civil War.
This monument has the names of all of the soldiers who served in that conflict, my Great grandfather's name is there.
He had come face to face suddenly on a trail in some woods and fought a Rebel soldier to the death in a sword fight.
He was extremely upset as the soldier died in his arms telling him it was "All right, I was trying to kill you too."
At the other end of the courtyard is a newer monument with the names of those killed in the Korean War, WW2, and Vietnam, two 16 inch shells from the Missouri class of battleship flank those names.
This is my hometown, many who I have known were vets and I know their very personal stories of the stress, pain and suffering from their experiences in every one of those wars.
This county's county Sherriff was a man left for dead on a Civil War battlefield because he had suffered a gaping stomach wound, Sherriff Robbe, he was Sherriff for several terms right after the Civil War and every day of his life had to change bandages several times that covered that wound that never closed.
WW1 saw one combat vet put on his full uniform many times every year afterwards and practice marching, all by himself , with his Springfield rifle shouldered in our quiet city park...some non-physical wounds don't "heal" either.
WW2 saw many not returning but their friends and classmates always remembered them, a friend of my Dad's was thought of in the form of a bronze plaque on the wall of the fire station , he had been a Sherman tank crew member in Europe, and any history buff knows how dangerous that piece of equiptment was at that place and time.
My Uncle had been a sailor during the Korean War and had nightmares for many years about his little mission to pick up his ship's frogmen who were planting charges to lead the Inchon invasion, only to find his buddie's tatooed arm floating where the rendevouz point was.
My classmate "Skip" was criticised and had a much worse life after Vietnam because of his alcoholism..but then how many of his unflinching critics had ever had to kill 110 of the enemy from 10 to 20 feet away as the crashed helicopter was surrounded?
He was the only person not wounded or killed, he was the machinegunner.
Spend the rest of your life asking yourself, "Why Me?" "Why did I live?"
Very recently a former Iraq vet had a letter in our paper telling how he and his troops had been sent into Iraq with very small supplies of food, water, ammunition, protection and he doesnot like the feeling many now have of "That is water under the bridge now", because he and his fellow soldiers were that "Water"!
Pain, suffering, memories that haunt them way too frequently, we must not forget what happens in armed conflict and those who were there for us.