For 10-years I have moderated the Stories from Wartime panels at Regis University I do not get paid for participating, yet it has been among the most rewarding things I have done in my career. I’ve been blessed to have had a front row seat to history. I’ve made many friends who have taught me a thing or two about what’s important in the world. You come to realize it’s hard to get to excited about someone making you mad at work when you think of Spence Bullard and Joe Sakato both watching friends die in their arms during their day at the office in WWII. Hard to feel sorry for yourself coming home late from the office, or class, when you know there are families who will wait a lifetime for loved ones who won’t be coming home at all. Hard to get to excited about whether or not a 22-year old first round draft choice is going to get his $10 million a year, when you remember a similar aged Clay Decker volunteering for sub duty so he could get an extra $2 a week and make $1200 a year. It was a decision that would send him to a POW camp and cost him his wife and family. So what is this thing we call Stories From Wartime? Why does it affect 9 to 90-year olds in such a profound way? My Take?
Stories from Wartime represents the brave who raised their right hand to enlist and marched deliberately into the line of fire to fight for freedom. It’s also the unsure Patriots who answered their country’s call to duty cautiously. Each one forever changed by the experience. It’s the quiet service of citizen soldiers from all generations. It’s the young becoming old all too quickly aged by living minutes as if they were years, fearing their lives would end in the next moment on the battlefield. It’s the unwritten language of simple nods, a knowing look in each others eyes and an expression that says if you weren’t there you’ll never know. Stories from Wartime can be told, but never completely understood. When you’ve seen death, and created death and been part of the horrors of war all in the name of survival, how do you properly explain to someone, please don’t call me a hero.
Those of us who have come to this classroom to hear these stories week after week are left to wonder, how do I fit in? What would I have done? What kind of Soldier would I have been? I never smelled napalm, or dug a foxhole, or ate C rations, or marched with no end in site, or laid on frozen ground holding another soldier so we wouldn’t freeze to death, or watched as those around me died on Japanese hell ships, or wondered if there was a God why would this happen. What kind of soldier would I have been?
Will Rogers once said “We can’t all be heroes otherwise there would be no one to sit on the curb and wave the flag as they marched by. That’s Will’s way of saying everyone has their part to play. Some people make the rifles and some pull the trigger. Many people make uniforms and many others wear them. Each is doing what they’re destined for to achieve the same common goal. So I guess that’s the role I’ve been given. Flag waver. O.K. then, let me be the best damn flag waver in the world. Let me wave it for those who served like Paul Murphy and Joe Apodaca and Kay Gunderson and Terry Rizzuti. And let me display it with honor for those who didn’t return like Tommy Slocum and Andrew Riedel. And let me wave it for as long as my arms can wave. Then, when someone approaches me and says, why do you wave that flag, I can say “Well, let me tell you about a Story from Wartime I heard. After 10-years I’ve got a bunch of them.” Call it completing the circle. That’s what Stories from Wartime is to me.