Soldier stories

Sixty years ago, two soldiers came home from war. We tell part of their stories in this issue.The men were two of the many thousands who were shipped off to war as young men, many still teenagers. They put their young lives on hold, leaving home and family to go into a great unknown — their destiny in the hands of others.

Today, it is difficult to imagine what these men went through without the benefit of technology to communicate, protect themselves from enemy fire, or in the case of Mr. Riley’s fellow soldiers, keep them from drowning in the surf before they could even reach the enemy on the beaches of Normandy.

Time has not leavened the fact that thousands of young men did not come home.

Each Nov. 11 on Veterans Day, (or Armistice Day as it was originally known) we are reminded of these heroes who followed orders to defend our nation’s principles.

Veterans like Mr. Riley and Mr. Townsend share the notion that many veterans share — that what they did was nothing special. It was just what you did, they will tell you. Then as now, they share a belief that their service and sacrifice was for a noble and important cause. They have never sought out glory or recognition. They prefer not to speak of it. It is only when thinking of friends lost that they outwardly mourn.

But we must seek them out to remind ourselves of what is important in this life we have here in the United States.

Kudos to the staff of Mercer Island schools, public and private, for focusing on this day — a powerful reminder to students that the sacrifices of these soldiers can never be diminished; that our elders and their experiences are to be cherished; that these veterans have much to teach us.

The story of WWII or any armed conflict will never be complete if we do not continue to listen and learn from those who were there.

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