This is how I remember Veterans when I was a kid. Some of them were younger than this, like my Dad and his friends. But of course they seemed a lot older to me at the time.
They were just regular guys, like my Dad. They were his buddies at the Volunteer Fire Department, or they were cops, or they were the local shopkeepers. Some of them, like my Dad, got on a bus every day and commuted to the city to work office jobs. They were my parents' friends who showed up at the neighborhood 4th of July picnics and played horseshoes, or who got tipsy at the New Year's Eve parties.
A couple of times a year, though, they were different. Memorial Day. Veteran's Day. That's when they put on their uniforms and, although there was joking, they got a little more serious. They stood up straighter. They were proud. Not of themselves, you understand. They were proud to have served, proud of their fellow veterans, and they were proud of our country. You could tell they were thinking about old times, and old buddies. And there was a bond; they were a band of brothers.
Here's a story about one of these regular guys from a town near where I grew up.
An Army medic, Staff Sergeant Max Warshaw, was awarded 11 medals and a Combat Medic Badge in World War II.
He received his first Bronze Star medal in 1942, in the North African Campaign. His regiment was fighting the Germans in Algeria. He risked his life by exposing himself to the enemy to help his regiment's wounded lying in open areas.
Two days later, Warshaw was wounded by shrapnel. "An artillery shell blew up right near me," he recalled, "it didn't knock me out and I didn't require hospitalization. However, for many years I would still need to have artillery shrapnel removed."
In 1943, Warshaw received his first Silver Star medal for gallantry in action in Tunisia.
On D-Day, he landed with his outfit in Normandy, where he was one of the first to hit Omaha Beach. It was for his heroism on June 14 and 15, 1944, that he received his second Bronze Star medal.
His division kept pushing the German Army back to its own country. It was in Aachen, Germany, on October 13, 1944, that Warshaw received his third Bronze Star medal. He constantly exposed himself to the enemy to administer first aid to the wounded.
Three days later, he was again awarded the Silver Star medal for heroism and gallantry beyond the call of duty.
On November 25, 1944, Staff Sergeant Max Warshaw was captured by the Germans. They gave him a medical kit to care for the other prisoners of war. He was liberated five months later and sent to England for medical care.
Can you tell which one is him?
I can't, either.
It doesn't matter. It's all of them.