Glass Half Full: Appreciate our military — past and present |

Glass Half Full: Appreciate our military — past and present

Memorial Day always affects me, even more so this year with the recent passing of my father. He, like most of his generation, served in World War II.

In a somewhat unusual move, Dad served most of his time on maneuvers in Mainland China, where he was sequestered into the Nationalist Chinese Army as a Colonel.

He and Mom both learned Chinese at Yale Language School, which was smart enough to recognize that married officers whose wives underwent the same language training were more likely to become conversant.

Chinese was the language Mom and Dad used when they didn’t want we kids to know what they were saying. Into his 90s, Dad could still shock the wait staff in Chinese restaurants with his language facility.

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Dad never talked about the War. He did talk about his service, focusing on the relationships he shared with his men and the experiences he had with various people in China.

His stories were lively, colorful and memorable. It was not until well into adulthood that I stopped to consider that they never included combat.

Yet, after he died, I discovered a list he had written chronicling the events and accomplishments in his life of which he was most proud.

High on that list was the fact he returned to the States having lost no one from his unit when he was in China. As a 25-year-old captain, that was a significant achievement that made me far more aware than I had ever been of the combat he undoubtedly saw.

Unless we have served in active armed service, it is impossible to imagine what men and women so involved have witnessed and suffered.

In the wake of the recent shootings in Isla Vista, one of the repeated concerns expressed in the news is that of witnesses and first responders.

When we consider the Boston Marathon shootings, Columbine, Sandy Hook, etc., it is possible to imagine how we might feel were we first on the scene. It’s also a natural extension to imagine the extended turmoil that any of us would feel.

My thought is this: Those who serve in combat — on any side, in any war — are constantly witnesses and first responders. It’s not just that they are fighting for our freedom.

They are immersed in a horror that most of us cannot imagine. I urge all of us to appreciate more fully than ever sacrifices made by our military personnel, past and present.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at


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