Setting Him Free

Jul 02, 2024

He served his country during World War II, as a young man. 

For nearly 70 years after that, what he experienced, saw, and heard during his service haunted him. He struggled, unable to shake the demons and how they made him feel. He bottled them up; that’s what you were expected to do with your feelings back then. Men didn’t cry. Men didn’t openly share their feelings. Men didn’t admit to their pain. They sucked it up, yet carried it like the immense weight it was for the rest of their lives. And, far too many men paid the price of the prisons they were stuck inside. Those who loved them paid a certain amount of the price along with them. Relationships suffered. Life was harder. Their often violent nightmares reflected the horror inside. But very few of their stories ever saw the light of day. Buried deep down, hidden behind elaborate and often impenetrable facades, the stories needed to be told for the men to heal. But it wasn’t encouraged. Vulnerability wasn’t in vogue. Neither was fragility. But too many men were fragile, even as they were considered the “greatest generation”. 

They were great in so many ways. They showed courage, acted sacrificially, and served, even knowing the huge risks they were assuming. They helped to save the world from tyranny and the unspeakable horrors that were a result of it.

He was one of them. 

At age 92, he told us his story. His extended family was worried about him. They saw his pain and anguish. They feared he would never shake his demons. They didn’t want him to leave this earth carrying it within him. They asked if we would listen to him. He agreed to tell us his story before it was too late. 

So, we did. We listened. We reassured him that whatever he told us would not be shared, that we would not judge any of it, that he deserved to be able to tell his story without fear, and that he was not alone in his feelings and struggles. We told him that it was good, actually healthy and healing, to tell his story. We listened with empathy and compassion, knowing that the weight he was carrying for seven decades needed to be lifted from him so that he could truly live. We validated his experiences and the weight of it all. We befriended him and reassured him that he was a good man, that his story was important, that he deserved to live in peace from now on.

Today, as he approaches his 98th birthday, he is living his best life. Unburdened from so much of the past. Active and engaged in his community. Strong and vital and loved. He survived Covid in his 90’s. He is strong and vital. He is more at peace than he ever was before. 

His is one of our very favorite stories. He is one of our very special friends.  

As the United States celebrates its 248th birthday this week, Someone To Tell It To honors the incredible sacrifices that so many men and women have made to create, maintain, and grow our experiment in democracy. 

We are not a perfect union; no nation is. There have been mistakes made, decisions rendered that created more problems than solved them, and many inequities still exist that shouldn’t. We honor those who help to save the world.

Serving and sacrificing for any nation is not easy. The horrors of war can scar veterans for the rest of their lives. And those scars continue to affect their loved ones. In this time of increasing loneliness, relational disconnection, isolation, mental health diagnoses, and suicide rates, allowing others to tell their most personal stories without fear, recrimination, or embarrassment, is vital. We are honored to hear those stories, those intimate and hidden stories that have been locked away for far too long. In unlocking and setting them free, new life can be born - even after 70 imprisoned years. What a privilege it is to have been trusted enough, because we listened with grace and compassion, because every story matters and deserves to be heard, to hear one man’s story that had been kept inside that long. 

To help Someone find a new life again, especially after such a long and lonely journey, is a privilege beyond compare. 

Digital Chalk and Charcoal Drawing of French Soldiers at Verdun by Charles W. Bailey, Jr.

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