By Rachel Benbrook Mason, Regular ContributorNovember 17, 2015
image via studentnewsdaily.com
Both of my grandfathers served their country proudly in World War 2. One was stationed in Germany and the other spent nearly two years of his life in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Both of their stories have greatly impacted me and my view of veterans and all they have sacrificed for our country.
My grandfather’s experiences as a POW (prisoner of war) have always left me with a deep appreciation for all he and others like him went through. Japanese forces sank his ship during the Battle of Sunda Straight, and he and many other people on his ship were gathered from the wreckage. He had to survive by floating on pieces of debris from the ship for hours while awaiting rescue. He was only 18 years old, and I can’t imagine dealing with so much at such a young age.
While he was in prison camp, he faced horrors of starvation and torture that no person should ever have to go through. My mother often described the fondness he had for the other men who had to endure the same day to day difficulties. Until the day he died, he remained friends with several Australians he was in prison camp with. Their similar experiences had bonded them in a way other people could never understand.
His experiences impacted the rest of his life, and I have personally learned about the sacrifices that veterans make, not just on the battlefield, but in their everyday lives.
He served his country with honor, yet he was never the same due to the experiences he encountered in the process. He and my grandmother were able to take a trip and visit many of the places he had been during the war, and the experience gave him healing and hope and helped him reconnect with some of his friends. It is truly remarkable how veterans can draw together to help each other recover.
His sacrifice and the sacrifices of my other grandfather and countless others have always left an impact upon me. It has made me realize that when someone leaves a war, they are never truly the same. Additionally, their loved ones also have to fight the battle every day as they try and help them recover from all they have endured.
Appreciating our veterans should go so much deeper than just celebrating them one day a year.
We must never forget the sacrifices that so many have made to protect our freedoms, and we must never forget that we owe all that we have to those who stepped up and risked their lives to protect us. Every veteran has a story. My grandfathers’ stories are just a few of the millions of incredible acts of bravery that have occurred and are still occurring today by brave men and women fighting for our freedoms. Veterans need our constant support every day of the year.
Have you been personally impacted by a veteran in your life? How do you show them gratitude? How can we begin to show this year round? Tell us below!
Rachel is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and the University of Leeds where she studied Political Communications. She is a passionate advocate of strong friendships, caffeine, social justice, current events, travels and adventures, as well as all things peanut butter. She enjoys watching Parks and Recreation, as well as teaching English to new language learners.
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