My grandparents lived in a remote West Virginia holler. The closest telephone was a mile away. They hunted for their meat, raised potatoes, cabbage, and carrots along with a few scrawny chickens. Because they were too poor to keep livestock, my grandmother helped till the garden wearing a horse collar and pulling a plow.
They lived in a tar paper shack with a boulder for a front porch and they cooked and heated with wood. Out of necessity, they burned the dining room one winter when the snow became too deep to chop wood. Water came from an open spring about 1/4 mile up the mountain and everyone used the same dipper to drink from the tin bucket in the kitchen. I remember when the power company came down the mountain with a mule and spool of wire to bring them electricity. The house had no switches or wiring so they unscrewed the single bulb to turn it off.
I am a veteran, a Cold War veteran. There is even a medal for it — or not. I come from a line of veterans including a grandfather both gassed and shot in WWI and a father who served aboard submarines in WWII. I have their casket flags and medals an arm’s length away and I see in them daily the sacrifice they made that allowed me to become a veteran. Yet even though I served, I always feel a bit odd about being a veteran on Veteran’s Day.
My “war” wasn’t a war, unless by war you mean people practicing for an unlikely one. My four-year enlistment was one of the few times since WWII that America had no major combat operations in the world. There was scant danger of me, or anyone else, being shot. But, that is true even when major wars are happening. Many civilians don’t know that most military members never get close to combat, even in “combat” zones.
It has become di rigueur to thank veterans for their service. When they thank me, I’m always a little embarrassed to be in the same class as Dad and Grandad. They were shot and shot at. They sacrificed family and friends. Not me. I just did my job.