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Posted by on May 27, 2013 in Blog, Essays, Politics | 6 comments

Next Time You Hear a Veteran Talk About the War….


vietnam-war-medic-1966-granger (472x600)


Next Time You Hear a Veteran Talk About the War…



That’s right.  Just listen.

Take a moment.  Pull up a seat.  And honor that man or woman with your attention.  It’s the least you can do.

They deserve it.

Next time that crazy uncle in your family brings up a conflict from many years ago that left scars, listen.  Next time your co-worker mentions that he served in Iraq or Afghanistan, listen.  Next time some guy at the bar talks about Vietnam or Desert Storm, listen.  And if you’re extraordinarily fortunate to meet one of the very few remaining World War II or Korean War veterans — keep completely silent.

Just listen.

You might not see the scars.  But as sure as you can hear their voices, trembling as they sometimes might to make it through the remembrance without breaking down, those scars are there.  Sometimes, they never heal.  The pain never goes away.

And for some reason, whatever reason, he thinks you are the one worthy of hearing his tale.

Consider yourself lucky.

Consider yourself blessed.

Just listen.

Today is Memorial Day.  That doesn’t just mean a day off of work or an excuse to drive to the beach.  No.  It’s so much more than that.  Today should be a day of reflection.  And remembrance.  And above all — appreciation — for those who have sacrificed the most.

The hour and the day will inevitably come when you will meet a veteran.  And if it all feels right, that special person might talk with you about what they witnessed, about their personal experiences, and about those he remembers who is now gone.  Forever.

It is our responsibility to listen.  It’s our duty to remember what they did and never forget those who made the supreme sacrifice and can’t be here.

They would like to be here.  But they’re gone.  Hundreds of thousands.  Beneath the soil or under the seas.  They can’t tell you their story.  They never will.  About what it feels like to storm a beach, or get shot at, or blown up and split in two.  Or placed into a casket with a red, white, and blue flag.  Or buried.  Or perhaps never found.  They can’t speak to us.  Their voices are now with the wind.

But their words are still here.  Those who are now gone speak to us through the survivors.  Veterans of battle and fear and scenes no human should ever have been born to witness.  Veterans sitting with us at our family reunions, inside our offices, at our bars, or in the most tragic of cases — still in rehabilitation centers and veterans hospitals.

They are all around us, and when the time is right for them, they will speak.

Just listen.

Please take a few minutes to watch — and listen — to this wonderful remembrance by the late actor Charles Durning which took place at the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington a few years ago.  Note: Charles Durning appears about one minute into the clip.



58,278 Names Etched in Granite

Meeting a World War II Veteran


  1. What an excellent post. I am a veteran. But thankfully I had no war experience. Richard Nixon is my favorite president bar none. I could care less what he did or didn’t do while in the Oval Office. My draft number was 25 and that year they took up until the 280’s. Shortly after Nixon came on the TV and said, “We will send no new troops to Vietnam.” No sweeter words did a US President ever utter nor ever will.

    But alas, not everyone got that lucky. Too many lives have been unrepairably damaged by the ravages of war. These veterans of wars carry a burden I can only imagine. They are our true heroes. So Nolan, you’re spot on when you tell your audience to just listen. But I disagree about not speaking. There is one word we can utter that is entirely appropriate, and that is “Thanks”.

  2. Nolan
    The three related articles are more than well written; they obviously come from your heart. We may have different opinions on many things and share much; however, this is one sentiment we share that I will value more than most of what we share. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for writing such a moving piece for today. I was trying to think of the words to share my sentiment of the occasion and was at a loss. I shared a link to your blog instead.

  4. Great and heartfelt column, Nolan. My father and mother were WWII veterans, he a Navy figher pilot, she a Navy Link training instructor. My brother Bobby’s name is one of those 58,278 etched in granite. We owe everything to those who’ve served.

  5. Hey Nolan,

    THANKS for wasting an entire morning of mine. REALLY! I enjoyed every moment. My father served in Korea and was scarred (It was more than a police action)

    I’m a past president of the Elks (God and Country = Elks) *and about 20 other committees committed to giving back..*

    For years now, I’ve brought back a BBQ at our local veterans hospital (Wilkes-Barre) Pa. I love it and hate it, mostly love it. Someone has to remind these gals and guys that we love em.

    This year… It’s on the 19th of July. Want to come serve some corn and burgers? (I can pick you up at the Philadelphia airport..) lol. I know it’s a favorite of yours..

    Actually – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport might be a better BET.

    Thanks for listening to these hero’s. It’s the right thing to do. Respect.

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