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Veterans’ Day

Nov 11, 2017

In:About The Pan Handler, History

My grandfather - Selwyn Norden

This, as you know, is cast iron blog. I usually post about cooking, or cleaning, or identifying cast iron cookware, or fabulous collections that enthusiasts have shared with us.

Today though, is Veterans’ Day, so instead of talking about cast iron, I will start by talking about my grandfather.

My grandfather’s birthday was July 4, and this year he would have turned 100.

He was an army sergeant in World War 2. He was a Rat of Tobruk, battling Rommel’s forces in Libya, caught a spy, and fought in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, where he contracted malaria and was retired honorably from the Army.

Source: https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/blog/remembering-war-new-guinea

Source: https://www.awm.gov.au

He went on to live a happy, peaceful life as a suburban accountant, raising his family, gardening, volunteering in the community and enjoying a glass of scotch every day at 5pm.

My grandfather, however, was not unscathed. He refused to watch anything on television associated with war. He couldn’t talk about his time fighting the Japanese in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, and there was a very strict rule in our house that under no circumstances could we slam a door of any kind, for he would leap into the air in shock, thinking the house was under attack.

Back in those days, returned soldiers were understood to have missing limbs, or horrific physical scars, but there was no acknowledgement of the psychological wounds that would be inflicted. They were left untreated. We were fortunate enough that my grandfather was able to have a happy life with softly closing doors and judicious changing of the television channel, but others were not so fortunate.

In writing this, I could find plenty of data on the numbers of soldiers killed in the world wars, or how many were wounded, but nothing on suicide rates, or alcoholism, or fractured families or domestic violence of returned combat veterans from that era. There were only whispers in one’s family or village that a person who had returned “was never the same”.

It seems to me that there are many ways for a soldier to die on the battlefield. Your heart doesn’t always have to stop beating, the eyes stop seeing and the limbs stop moving. They may still come home, but they are strangers, both to themselves and their families. The person they were has died. The body may continue on, or it may blow its head off, or hang itself in the barn, but that person died at war.

So today, let us remember, and respect, and thank all our veterans, the living, the thriving, the surviving, and the fallen.

You are all our warriors in the service to our country, and we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms we do today without you.

Thank you.

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