He’s 90. He still works part-time. He served valiantly in Korea and is a decorated veteran. His baseball cap imprinted with his service dates and “Korea” is always on his head. He is a student in my adult-education classes on the news and American politics. He is not a happy man.
He tells stories of being on top of a ridge and seeing the enemy coming at him. He tells stories of seeing the enemy on a ridge coming down upon him. As most of you know Korea was an ugly “conflict” (when will be ever acknowledge it was a war?). In the winter it was killingly cold; it was the reverse in the summer. Our troops were faced with an endless supply of enemy reinforcements coming out of China. War is hell and this was war.
Having endured the above his heart is now broken. He feels no one really cares about America. We take her for granted. Worse yet he feels our youth aren’t engaged in the preservation of our democracy. “What?” he asks, did I and my brothers in combat risk our lives for, become prisoners of war for, die for?’ His voice is strong and angry. Then it tails off, he seems to disappear inside himself and lowers his still bulky frame back into his seat.
He touched me deeply.
Worse yet, I think he is right.
Worse than that…I don’t have an answer to his “what?” questions.
It may be we as a nation don’t have any–at least from my perspective.
A somber Bill Gralnick tells you all to be well and stay that way. Be smart even when it becomes inconvenient. and of course, if you are sick, you have friends that are sick, buy them a copy of “The War of the Itchy Balls and Other Tales From Brooklyn.” (Amazon.com and B&N.com both in paperback or e-book. He bought it. It made him smile. That’s worth something, no?