I was drawn to Vic the first time I saw him, probably because he reminded me so much of my own grandfather.  His steps were slow–just a little–and his shoulders were slightly hunched, but his brown eyes still danced with the vigor of a younger man.

I first heard his story a few years ago, when we were each volunteering at our church’s Vacation Bible School.  We were taking our breaks at the same time, and we sat next to each other.  I can’t remember how it came up.  Did I ask him if he was a veteran?  Did he bring it up himself?  I don’t recall.  What I do recall is that I spent the next hour next to him in motionless attention as he shared his war stories (literally, his war stories). 

He enlisted in the Army Air Corp (now the Air Force) when he was only seventeen, and he was sent to the Pacific.  He was a tail gunner in a B-29 when his plane was shot down over the ocean.  He and his crew floated for days in enemy territory, sharks circling them.  They were finally picked up by a U.S. ship.  There were dozens of other stories as well, too many to recount here, and I could never do them justice.  For the real story, you’d have to see the look in Vic’s eyes when he describes the boys that didn’t come home. 

As the years have passed, I’ve had many opportunities to hear more of Vic’s stories, and not just those about the war.  He’s told me about growing up in rural Florida during the Great Depression, when his mother would send him to school with only a jug of sugar water for lunch.  And how they once went without food for six days when his mother managed to kill a turtle with her bare hands–they ate it all, and they were thankful.

He hasn’t just shared his stories; he’s shared his heart with our family.  When I was in the hospital awaiting my daughter’s arrival, he and his wife were the first ones to visit me.  When our family misses church, he calls to make sure we’re okay.  When he learns that one of his old war buddies has passed away, he calls to tell me.  And I listen.  It’s the very least I can do. 

I am richer because of my friendship with this dear man.  He has taught me much about sacrfice and strength and humility.  And he has reminded me what rich stories his generation carries tucked deep inside, if my generation would slow down long enough to hear.  This Veteran’s Day, find someone who has a story to tell–and listen

17 thoughts on “Vic

  1. hogphan says:

    Tom Brokaw got it right, that generation really is the Greatest Generation. This country is indeed a great one, founded on noble principles and that generation cemented it for all of us to see, and enjoy, and preserve……….. if we will.

  2. noelle says:

    I love to listen to those stories from someone who LIVED them – not read them from a history book for from some 24 year old first year history teacher. My granddad was in WW2 and I wish he would talk more about it. I haven’t ever heard him say anything about the navy ship he was in but is very excited about the new WW2 memorial out in Washington. Hopefully, he will get to see it before he passes…. He wants to see it and I think he should see it. He donated money and sent his picture even for the memorial. I’ve heard more stories about the depression from my grandma than I care to hear really – it’s gut wretching to hear them for me. To know they lived through that – someone you care deeply about had to go through that pain – but yet – they are much stronger people than my generation. They understand the concept of work for what you get. Thanks for the great post.

  3. Shalee says:

    What a blessing you have in Vic. What a blessing we all have in the men and women who serve/served to protect our lives.
    Thanks for such a eloquent reminder to remember those who gave their lives or a portion of it for us.

  4. Jenn says:

    Church is a wonderful place to make unexpected friends who never leave you! We had a similar relationship with a Veteran named Everett from our church who worked with my mother on the bookkeeping. He ended up being a long time family friend until his passing. Thanks for writing this and bringing Everett to my mind on Veteran’s Day when he and so many others should be remembered.

  5. Deborah Li says:

    I agree that its priceless. Listening to my grandmother’s stories of having to live through the Japanese Occupation and how hard and scary life was… makes me sooo glad that God was merciful and allowed her the grace to forgive and love on…

  6. Megan says:

    We have a Vic in our family. His name is Russ. He’s a real hoot and we enjoy his stories very much, though sometimes they are heartbreaking.

  7. Chrissy says:

    I have an uncle who fought and was wounded at the Battle of the Bulge. He was a sharpshooter in Patton’s Army. He was captured and held prisoner until the end of the war. I am just in awe of him. He is truly a hero and I’ll make sure my children know of and understand the sacrifice he and others like him have made for our freedoom.

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