This is Day 3 of transcribing my grandfather’s memories of World War I, the War to End all […]

Veterans Day | Field of poppies
Veterans Day | Field of poppies (Photo credit: *Arielle*)

 

Are you…”

“Yes,” he smiled.  “And I believe you are…”

“Yes,”  I said.  “I thought you looked like you might be…”

“Yes.  You too, looked like you might be…”

We both laughed.  And so we met at Flatlanders’, a local sandwich shop.  He a retired Veteran; a pediatrician; a researcher; a father; a husband; and a man who goes toe to toe with Kathleen Sebalius on budget issues.  Me, a retired quality professional in the FDA regulated industry; a mother; a wife; a new journalist; a newish writer; a woman awed by Kathleen Sebalius’s strong conviction at BlogHer 13.

We, Dr. Errol Alden and I sat over hot beverages as if we were old friends.  Neighbors meandered in and back out, stopped to say hello and remind Dr. Alden about choir practice at the Methodist Church later that afternoon.  On November 11, Dr. Alden will talk to the local High School students about Veterans’ Day.

Dr. Errol Alden, MD, FAAP, retired from a military career in 1987.   He explains the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day to me:  “Memorial Day is a time to remember those who died defending our country; Veterans’ Day is a time to consider what veterans contributed to their country.”

In 1938 Congress dedicated November 11 “to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”  This new legal holiday honored the World War I veterans and the end of “The War to End All Wars.”  In 1954, after both World War II and the Korean War, Congress changed  “Armistice” to “Veterans,” and November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans of all wars.

Alden grew up one of seven children in a farming community;  I the second of nine, in a similar farming community.  We were both nerdy/geeky high-school students, he played the French horn, I the flute, in the marching band.  We both participated in student government.  We both loved our dairy cows.  Dad helped me name my 4-H heifer, Lady Bird.  Dr. Alden laughed at the obvious political joke my father interjected into my young life.

Alden went on to play in the Ohio State Marching Band where he graduated with an Agricultural Science degree.  So how did he become a military pediatrician?  Approaching graduation, Alden pondered aloud to his parents that he might be interested in medical school.  They told fellow parishioners, who told friends, who told his classmates.  By the time he got back to school, the news was out.  He was going to medical school.  Alden confesses, “I didn’t want to disappoint my parents.”

Alden became a military pediatrician.  Besides treating children of service men and women, and children of Embassy officers, he taught at Madigan Army Medical Center, in Fort Willis, Washington, he served as chairman of Uniformed Services Health Sciences at Walter Reed and he helped establish pediatric standards of care.

Throughout his 25-year military career, Alden experienced many sociological changes.  Before the Vietnam war, PTSS (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome) was rarely recognized.  “People cannot be in war without emotional strain.”  It only took me seeing “The Deer Hunter” to appreciate the trauma of war.  Even before I had a son, I hoped never to send one of mine to war.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw-Tyr6Rb6I

Alden also saw the military go from draft-status to all-volunteer.  This ushered in a shift in strategy.  During the Vietnam War, soldier did one tour of combat duty; now, soldiers are re-deployed to war zones many times.   Alden explains the difference between an all-volunteer and a draft military, “Citizens who have been to war are anxious to avoid it.”  He an I are on the same page, once again. 

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Would you like a romantic summer read that is jam-packed with historical information?  Boxcars, by Jim Barfield, just may be the ticket.

Be sure to add a comment to this post and your name will be entered into a drawing to win a copy of Jim Barfield’s premier novel.

Boxcars tracks the adventure and epiphanies of two hunted Nazi outcasts, a young Roma named Elsa, and David, a teenage Jewish violinist, turned French Resistance fighter.  They see each other through the fog and smoke of a train wreck.   Detined to cross paths again, they begin to rely on each other and deepen their relationship.  David and Elsa find that despite their different backgrounds, they have more in common that their Nazi enemy.

How and why any author gets his start is intriguing.  Some authors know right from the beginning