A Veterans Day Remembrance

Tuesday, November 11, 1968 was cold and stormy in Connecticut and it was barely light when my father drove my husband, Army Captain Dave Crocker, Jr., and me to a tiny airport in Groton where Dave would board a small prop plane for the first leg of his trip to Vietnam. I was probably not thinking about the fact that it was also the fiftieth anniversary of the armistice in 1918 that marked the cessation of hostilities on the Western front of World War I. Fifty years seemed like more than two generations to me at age twenty-one. My grandfather had fought in the British Army in World War I and he died in 1955, another lifetime ago. Three years in the trenches of France took an unspoken toll on him but he survived for enough years to succumb to the sequelae of the wounds, deprivations and mustard gas he suffered between 1915 and 1918. Today, November 11, 2019, I’m imagining how my grandfather must have received the news of that horrible war’s end. I’m wondering if he heard the news in the hospital in Malta where he eventually recovered enough to come back to the U.S. and marry my grandmother, or if he was still limping through the freezing mud in France when the Armistice was announced. I was only eight when he died so I don’t think he had the opportunity to advise me about the risks of marrying a soldier going off to war.  And, as I’ve heard from many family members of veterans, he didn’t reminisce about the war.  Even my father […]

Veteran’s Day 2018: Grief and Gratitude 

On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1968, my husband departed for the Vietnam War. I was twenty-two and could not fathom that he might not return. That rainy Tuesday morning, fifty years ago, would be the last time I heard his voice. September 2018. I’m at an airport hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, where three giant, air conditioned buses are loading veterans and family members for a trip to the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, a US Army post where many trained for the infantry.  I have a front seat, right behind the driver. Most people have boarded already but the seat next to me is still empty and it seems I’ll be traveling the one-hour plus journey without a seatmate. I know several veterans of the Vietnam Triple Deuce at this reunion of the 22thInfantry Regiment Society – especially the guys of A Company who served in Vietnam during ‘68 and ‘69. They knew my husband, Captain David R. Crocker, Jr., as their beloved Company Commander. When he was killed in a booby-trapped Viet Cong bunker on May 17, 1969, the entire unit grieved and had to be taken from the field for several days. I didn’t know any of them until we met, by chance, in 2006 and they opened a window to our shared past. Since that first reunion in Omaha, I’ve met them at reunions around the country every eighteen months. More and more veterans of the Triple […]

Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh: The Story Whisperers

The Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh started out quietly enough. First, a few vets gathered for breakfast once a month. Eventually, there was a trip planned to visit a monument in Washington, DC. Stories that had been bottled up for as much as fifty years began to pour out on that bus trip. Stories of what war was really like. Everyday should be Veteran’s Story Day. I believe in the healing power of telling true-life stories, especially the ones that are hardest to tell. Not only is it good for the teller, but the world needs first person accounts in order to know what actually happened during calamitous events. One of the great qualities of the recent PBS Vietnam War series, created for television by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, was the relentless telling of stories by people who lived through it on both sides. The stories were often brutal, but we need to hear them. Third person summaries that supposedly supply facts cannot do justice to the horror and terror – or the exhilaration for some – of war. A group of less well-known documentarians in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh, have been collecting and recording the oral histories of veterans and survivors on podcasts for several years. Kevin Farcas, founder, and Todd DePastino, historian, have reached out to find veterans of all wars and produced a unique archive of stories captured in a warm conversational style. In 2016, in his 90th year, Gene McShane was recorded describing what it was like to land on Omaha beach in Normandy having been […]