Dear HFK Family,
The experience of a military veteran is intense, emotional and most persona, therefore unforgettable. Through boot camp, drill, training of all sorts, one arrives at a close sense of being comrades, a brotherhood or camaraderie that is strong and binding, truly unforgettable. When combat experience, with all its dangers and fear, with memories of our lost brothers, is added to this strong sense of brotherhood, the intensity is magnified.
“Never have I felt as close to my wife or kids as I did with my brothers in combat,” confided one Vietnam veteran to me. The fact is there is nothing like this sense of closeness in civilian life.
Thus, there is a loneliness in the civilian life of a veteran which is inescapable, which no civilian can understand. This may be one reason there are so many suicides of returning veterans today. The disconnect and emotional transition is a chasm, hugely challenging.
Recent research shows the disconnect is so strong it can be buried for 30 years and then severely emerge as PTSD to overwhelm as has happened with one Vietnam veteran friend.
Our return on the Honor Flight was not only one of emotional and physical exhaustion. We also return with a reminder of the profound disconnect of our military experience with our current civilian life along with a renewal of long forgotten memories. The contrast can be overwhelming. The intensity of our military experience cannot compare with the ordinariness of our civilian lives ever since.
We just experienced a mission with Honor Flight Kentucky. What we remembered when we visited those war memorials in Washington were the memories of our buddies long ago with the host of memories and emotions we shared. That was deeply moving and heart wrenching, not just for us, but also for veteran friends we were privileged to be on the flight with.
The range of emotions in that day of visiting those war memorials is too rich and varied to be broached here. Let us say only that the day was an awesome experience, deeply moving as we remember the pain of buddies lost. The underserved gift of life now, which we survivors have, was also constantly present.
Now we want to tell something which is hard to express. We are still stunned by its intensity, overwhelmed by it, choking at the memories.
Remember, there is a long loneliness in the life of a veteran. Ask most any person, “What is a veteran?” Most will answer, “Someone who served our country in the military.”
Excuse me. This puts our service on the same level as anyone serving our country in government or politics.
A veteran is someone who signed a blank check to Uncle Sam to put his life and limbs in harms way, risking everything to protect and preserve our freedoms. We surrendered total control over our lives to join a great and awesome brotherhood.
What we have returned with is a profound sense of the loss of lives, buddies whose lives were cut short, the enormous cost of freedom, and gratitude that we are still alive and here. What is overwhelming for us is the profound sense of loss as well as gratitude, pain and wonder.
Therefore, to arrive back to Blue Grass Airport to such an enthusiastic, warm welcoming with long ranks of adults and children wanting to thank us for our service, was and is simply the most powerful experience of our lives. Someone, right now – here, appreciates the price we paid.
One veteran friend said, “I never felt so loved in my life.”
We can both say, “My heart has never been so deeply moved as going through that human tunnel of welcoming and cheering humans of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and ages. Awesome.”
Whoever organized this day and helped make it happen can scarcely imagine what it means to the long loneliness of us veterans unless they happen also to be veterans. We are forever indebted to such awakening and generous response of so many persons in making this happen.
Thank you, Lexington, thank you Honor Flight organizers and volunteers. Thank you guardians. Thank you all in helping make this day such a deeply moving, unforgettable experience.
We know deep in our hearts that we are the lucky survivors. To have someone, indeed whole rows of people…hundreds…thank us for the price we and our brothers paid for our freedoms is moving beyond words.
Paschal Baute and Charlie Eyer