Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day 2016: Joe's story

Today, I went to Veterans Park to hear the Union Volunteers Fife and Drum Corps, who came to play music for the Veterans Day ceremony. It was held at eleven o'clock in the morning. The day is also known as Armistice Day. At 11 a.m., November 11th, 1918, World War I came to an end. The war ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It ended after 20 million people died. They are remembered in a moment of silence. Their loved ones, whom they left behind, are remembered with another moment of silence.

The first Armistice Day celebrations were held in England, on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, on November 11th, 1919. After that, days of remembrance became an annual event in many countries, including Serbia, Poland, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and others.

In the United States, the day is now dedicated to veterans, both living and deceased. The national day to remember the dead is on Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day. That is the day that the graves of the fallen in war and the deceased veterans are decorated with flags. In Canada, the day is dedicated to living veterans. There are patriotic displays and, in a number of cities, veterans are given free rides on transit and free cab rides.

At the conclusion of today's ceremony, I started walking away, when a gentleman offered me a little flag. I took the flag and thanked the gentleman, who was wearing an American Legion hat. I asked him if he was a veteran and he said that he was. I asked him when he served, and he said, "World War II." I asked him about his experiences, and he told me his story. His name is Joe. He joined the U.S. Army in 1945. He was 15 years old, but, when he went to the draft board in Philadelphia, he told the officials there that he was eighteen. I guess that he did not have to provide any proof of age. He was promptly drafted.

Joe said that his mother worried about him but that his father was not upset with Joe's decision to quit school and join the military. "They were different days," he said. He joined the 508 Parachute Infantry, which was part of the 82nd Airborne Division before D-Day. In 1946, he went to jump school. He said that he volunteered to be a paratrooper because he was paid $50 extra per month, which, then, was a lot of money. The extra pay was because it was hazardous duty, although Joe said that he didn't experience any hazard.

In 1946, Joe was part of the honor guard in Frankfurt, Germany. He returned to the United States in November 1946, where he went to Fort Bragg as part of the 82nd Airborne. He was discharged from active duty in 1948. He was then in a reserve unit. He said that he did not serve in the Korean War.

After leaving active military duty, Joe returned to Buffalo, where he enrolled in the Hutchinson Central Annex school. It was also known as "Vet's High" because so many of the students there were war veterans who had quit school to join the military. The school offered accelerated courses so that the students could graduate sooner.

Joe went out to work and had a variety of jobs, including truck driver and pipefitter. At one point, he had a job with the Niagara Power Project. He said that his life was "all work and some play."

"I try to do a good deed each day," Joe said. Today, he succeeded in that because he gave me a ride to Tops Market from Veterans Park. During the ride, Joe told me his story. He agreed to permit me to share his story and take his picture. He prefers to be identified just by his first name.

Joe said that he has always tried to support veterans. He wanted his picture to be taken in front of Tops Market because he said that, now, Tops is very supportive of veterans. But it wasn't always that way. In the late 1990s, Tops had a "no soliciting" policy, which prevented the veterans from selling poppies. Joe picketed in front of the store, and that drew enough attention to cause the store to change its policies to permit veterans to sell poppies on store property. Today, however, the parking lot was packed because Tops offered an eleven percent discount to all veterans.
Joe, who is now 86 years old, says of the world today, "Things could be better. Somehow we lost our way. Families took care of their elderly. We took care of our parents."

1 comment:

Alana said...

A wonderful story. In Binghamton, vets were able to ride BC Transit for free on Veterans Day - it's the first time that I can remember. Vets are honored now. It was so different during the Vietnam War. My Dad and my father in law, both now deceased, were World War II vets.

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