Mike Flynn on the Day his Old Man First Felt Old

It was upon leaving Iwo Jima.

We asked him once when was the first time he felt old. He said it was on his 20th birthday, when he boarded a troopship to leave the island.

A while back Sèan told him there were now tour groups for veterans to return to the island. Sèan said he would pay for it. I’ll have to think about it, said Pere.  What’s to think about? asked Sèan. It’s a free trip.

The last time I got a free trip to Iwo Jima, Pere answered, people started shooting at me.

Thanks to Old Man Flynn and to all our troops! We owe you a debt we can never repay. Let our poor gratitude count for what we can’t do further.

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  • Dave G.

    That was similar to what my uncle said when he received a belated medal for his part as a medic in the Ardennes Offensive. It was toward the end of his life, and he couldn’t remember what it was for. My Dad explained it was when he was in the Battle of the Bulge, in 1944. He responded that he couldn’t remember much about it. Just that it was bitter cold and people were shooting at him. I sometimes think the best thing we can do to thank the vets is to keep the nation they suffered and died for from unraveling under our watch.

  • KM

    War is hell. It’s not as glamorous or glorious as Hollywood paints it to be. That’s the lesson I get when I read and hear the words of WWII (or Vietnam era) vets. My father-in-law served in the Aleutian Islands during WWII, fighting the Japanese. Some of his buddies didn’t survive. He still doesn’t like to talk about those times. When he does, he doesn’t say much.

    • My husband’s gradfather served as a medic in WWII. His battalion (?) (my grasp of military terminology is nonexistent) landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day +1. He never liked to talk about it either.

      • chezami

        God love him. I’m not surprised. Omaha was the bloodiest engagement of Operation Overlord. It’s the Omaha landing your are seeing recreated in the opening of Saving Private Ryan. Horrific.

        • And yet by the grace of God he came back home to a young wife and child he’d never met. The couple had many more children together. He worked hard, sometimes two jobs, at manual labor. They were married for over sixty years when he passed. These guys really were the Greatest Generation.

        • KM

          That scene in “Saving Private Ryan” was terrifying. The scenes of war in “The Pacific” on the islands of Peleliu and Okinawa were likewise nightmarish. Those scenes were based on Eugene Sledge’s book “With the Old Breed.” My father-in-law fought at the Battle of Attu and said, as Eugene Sledge himself wrote, that the Japanese were ferocious fighters.

          “… to those who entered
          the meat grinder itself the war was a netherworld of horror from which
          escape seemed less and less likely as casualties mounted and the
          fighting dragged on and on. Time had no meaning, life had no meaning.
          The fierce struggle for survival in the abyss of Peleliu had eroded the
          veneer of civilization and made savages of us all.”

          Eugene B. Sledge,

          With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa


      • KM

        Eugene Sledge, a Marine who fought in the South Pacific during WWII, wrote that he could not forget the horror he had seen:

        “…It is over for us who
        are dead, but you must struggle, and will carry the memories all your
        life. People back home will wonder why you can’t forget.”

        Eugene B. Sledge,

        With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa


  • Paxton Reis

    About the time the Vietnam Memorial was built and opened to the public, there were
    discussions amongst some Korean War vets that their war was the forgotten one.

    A family friend who served and fought in Korea commented, “I
    hope so as I have been trying to forget it for over 30 years.”