I am a veteran in World War II. I served with the royal Canadian Air Force, women division. I always knew I was a woman, but that's how they chose to identify us, none the less. We were known as W.D.'s. It you are wondering why I didn't join the men's division, because it might have been more fun? I had thought of that, but I'm sure any woman out there would understand why I had second thoughts. Have you ever seen those haircuts they gave the men? Forget it!
O n Remembrance Day, November 11, there are parades, wreaths laid, and tears shed...as we think of those who left their homes and families, some of them forever, to protect and save this world for us. We honor and thank them...and rightly so.
T he definition of a veteran is "one who is experienced through serving" and there is one group of veterans I have never heard publicly acknowledged. They also served! They are the women who stayed behind, putting their lives on hold as they prayed and waited.
M any of those women had to take over as head of the family. There were not prepared. Some had never driven a car, shoveled coal into a furnace, or even handled the family finances. Now suddenly the husband and father was a smiling young man in a uniform. A photograph sitting on a table!
T hey were on their own, facing fear and loneliness, limited financial support, housing restrictions and rationing of food and clothing. They didn't have "Support Groups" they supported each other.
T hey didn't sit on their hands and weep. They got busy. They prayed, they wrote cheerful letters, knit socks and scarves and put together care packages for our lonely service people who were so far from home. They learned to bake cakes with no eggs, they learned to bake cakes with no butter - in fact, I think they may have been the originators of stone soup. They took the clothes they had and they shortened them and they lengthened them and they accessorized them. They unraveled woolen items and they reknit them. They knew all about recycling...they just didn't know there was a name for it. They called it "making do with what we have because we don't know when we'll get anymore." They helped each other with the kids and cried with each other when those dreaded telegrams came.
W omen tied up their hair in turbans and nets and went to work in war plants - they put on rubber boots and worked on farms, they stood nervously in front of strangers and sold war bonds, and they waited...
T hen one day they were told "The War is Over". In many homes it was time of great celebration. In others that smiling young man in the picture would be the only Daddy some children world ever know and for that woman, all that was left to show for all the waiting. A whole new life had to be started again.
I n other homes and almost worse, a stranger returned in place of that smiling young man in the photograph. A man his wife and family did not recognize. A stranger who in some cases was so horribly disfigured physically that life was torture for him and everyone around him.
S ome men returned gassed or shell shocked and lived as semi-invalids for the rest of their lives. Some women welcomed home husbands that were so emotionally damaged they were incapable of performing as a husband, father, employee or even a responsible citizen. For these women the war was not over, for these women the war would never be over. Once again their worlds were turned upside down as they prepared to assume another whole new role.
D on't forget to honor all our veterans, those who fought were wounded and died as well as those who stayed at home and waited, prayed and held that world together.
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