Anyways, I interviewed my Grandpa, a Vietnam War Veteran, and wrote a newspaper article from his notes, etc. Unfortunately, the article was not published, but I thought I'd share it with all you.
Memorial Day. What do you think of when you hear that phrase? A picnic lunch? A day off from work? Perhaps gas prices? Sadly, I’m afraid that is what many of us think of when hear the phrase “Memorial Day”. However, is there something deeper? Something of more value than just hotdogs on the grill? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”. There is so much more behind Memorial Day. Have you ever asked a veteran their perspective of this holiday?
I recently interviewed my Grandpa, Bruce Meigs, who is a Vietnam War Veteran. He was born on October 9, 1950, in Brooklyn, New York, but he spent most of his childhood and teen years in the Northern and Central parts of New Jersey. He dropped out of school at age fifteen, and worked various odd jobs for the next three years.
Enlisting to be in the military at age eighteen, my Grandpa arrived in Bien Hoa, Vietnam in May of 1969. While there, he served as a tank mechanic and machine gunner. He lived in an armored personnel carrier, described as, “A smaller version of a tank. Almost like a van inside, but without any seats.” His usual meals consisted of both freeze-dried and canned foods, cooked over small amounts of plastic explosives. One instance while making his dinner, my Grandpa almost accidentally blew up his food!
My Grandpa and his fellow soldiers never settled in one location for more than a few days at a time. Normally, they were in and around the III Corps Area. Some of the primary Vietnamese cities they passed through were An Loc, Quan Loi, and Bien Hoa. They also meandered through the nearby country of Cambodia as well.
My Grandpa eagerly told me many stories of his time in Vietnam. For example, one day, he was traveling through a Michelin Tire Rubber Plantation. His tank accidentally ran into a rubber tree, which, surprisingly, did not snap under the extreme weight and pressure. Instead, the tree was so elastic, it just flung the tank backwards a few feet!
After eleven months serving in Southeast Asia, my Grandpa returned home to a dreadfully shocking welcome. When his parents, both World War II Veterans, had come home, they were greeted with a joyful celebration of victory over the evil Hitler. Yet, when my Grandpa arrived home, he met with a much different response: besides his family, everyone treated him with great disdain, as if he was too “dirty” to be a part of the American life again.
When I questioned my Grandpa about hardest part of serving in the war, he quickly replied without a hint of uncertainty, “The sadness of the children. There were so few things for them.” He went on to describe how his garbage was like treasure to the Vietnamese children. My Grandpa also painfully remembered a very kind friend of his who was killed in action. He shared that it was hard “Watching [his departed friend] fly out of [Vietnam] knowing he was never coming back.”
My Grandpa described his experience in the war as “Horrible. Not necessarily [full of] terror, but just horrible. Many civilians were inadvertently killed.” However, my Grandpa ultimately stated, “I can say forty-two years later that I’m glad I went through the experience. It opened my eyes.” He also shared a lesson he learned: “Life is so precious. If there is any way to avoid war, it should be avoided at all costs.”
So what is it about Memorial Day that we need to remember? It’s them. It’s the veterans. Not only the ones who gave their lives, but also the ones who were willing to do so but were spared. Who is the “them” in your life? Who do you need to take the time to thank? Whose phone number do you need to dial? It’s my guess that the “them” in your life would love the opportunity to sit down with you and share their stories, experiences, and lessons learned. Take the time today to thank them. Right now.
“Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will show thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.” Deuteronomy 32:7
Also, a sidenote: my sister Leah just started her own blog... It's called A Girl's Journey with Jesus.