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The Quiet of a Soldier

In honor of Veteran’s Day, Dr. Margaret Rutherford, Mental Health columnist for Midlife Boulevard, shares her experience with and observations of her father, a World War II veteran. 


world war2 veterans day

Dr. Rutherford’s father, on the right.

Remembering those who have protected us from harm.

That’s what Veterans Day is all about.

My Dad talked rarely about the war.  He was in the Philippines.  WWII.  Told a story about letters my mother wrote. They were just dating back then.  She would number them.  He would see 1 number was skipped. 32, 33…35.

He would scour the island for that letter.

That wily woman had never written it.

Mother would just smile in her chair as he teasingly regaled us.

He would show the bullet wound in his leg.  The piece of shrapnel he kept in his jewelry case.  Make jokes about being wounded in the war.

The serious stuff?  The fear? What it’s like to see people die beside you?

Never talked about it.  At least with me.

Last weekend, we passed through Mayflower, Arkansas on the expressway.  The site of the EF-4 tornado last year.

We had passed through there a week after the tornado hit.  Had taken 45 minutes to go 2 miles.  The tornado had crossed the highway.  People craning their necks to stare at all the rubble and debris.  Complete ruin. 15 people dead in Arkansas alone.

Now people were casually noticing as they whizzed through.  Trying to see what had been rebuilt. Or not.

All of our lives have gone on.

Maybe that’s how soldiers feel when they come home.  That our lives have remained safe.  We make a big deal at first.  Then everything goes on.


Theirs have changed forever.The Quiet of a Soldier: Veterans Day

I know that’s how people who experience other kinds of trauma and loss feel.  That somehow, even after what they have gone through, they have to reweave themselves into normal life.  Even though they don’t feel the same anymore.  Those around them can try to empathize, but really cannot.  They have physically survived.

Now it’s about emotional survival.

Maybe that’s why Dad didn’t talk.  It was his way of surviving.

I think he did with other vets.  I remember he was written about in a book by a fellow soldier.  A little short reference but he was in there.  His face lit up when he talked about it.  He called the guy.  They had a long private conversation.

This Veterans Day, I will remember my Dad and all the people that have served to protect us.  Thank you.  For what you talk about.

And all that you don’t.

If you are a veteran or know of one who might be suffering with depression or Post Traumatic Stress, please know that there are resources to help at the VA.  Click here for the link. Sometimes what you have experienced is overwhelming.  You can get better if you get treatment.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford has been in practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas for over 20 years. She began blogging in 2012 with the website “NestAche”, and following with in April 2014. Her work can be found here on Midlife Boulevard, as well as the Huffington Post, Boomeon, WeWantMore, BetterAfter50 and Arkansas Women Bloggers.

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Koji Kanemoto

Wednesday 12th of November 2014

It is a rarity that those at or near combat during WWII would talk about "it". They would especially not talk about it with their wives. If circumstances are right, they may share something with their father or son. They need to keep those demons cooped up inside for the most part to stay sane. I was blessed with having two such men live across the street from me. They opened up to me at times because they knew of my family's involvement and I write (amateurly) about "it". May his soul be at peace. Wonderful thoughts you've written.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 12th of November 2014

Thank you so much Koji. Sounds as if you know of these things. And you are right. May everyone's soul be at peace.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Tuesday 11th of November 2014

Thank you Joan. I certainly agree that it was humility. But since Dad would only talk about it with others who had been through it (and I never really overheard that...) I don't know how he remembered it, except for the few "favorite" stories he would tell. I have kept the piece of shrapnel that brought him home. He was wounded in his leg. My Dad came home and actually did more of the "duty" thing as far as his family was concerned. He loved us deeply and we him. I hope that he would be happy that I am writing about him!

Joan Stommen

Tuesday 11th of November 2014

Such a sweet post, Margaret. Yout Dad was like mine, not wanting to share their experiences. Humble maybe, or just doing their duty. I dont think mine was affected by his service.....but times were different then and perhaps it was the manly thing to do. They were young and came home ready to live the hell out of life!

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