Growing Up around Combat Veterans

By | February 6, 2022

[February 6, 2022]  I didn’t know it at the time, but I grew up privileged.  As a young boy, my privilege was being in the company of combat veterans from World War II and the Korean War.  They were everywhere; being salesmen, pumping gas, farming, raising dairy cows,1 all holding down ordinary jobs you could find in a small town back in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Yes, I was privileged.  Many in my family were also combat veterans of these wars.  I saw the photographs and, on occasion, some of these men would tell me hair-raising stories about what they saw and did.  Being a little kid at the time, having young men sit down with me to talk was, in itself, unusual.  Looking back, I guess that there should be no surprise these veterans wanted to talk to someone about their experiences who wouldn’t judge them harshly.

My mouth was open as they would tell me how they were wounded or saw a buddy die or how the enemy (German, Japanese, or Chinese soldiers) would attack.  And who were the “better” enemy soldiers?  They talked about fear and how you could never predict when fear would sneak up on you, like an enemy in the dark, and suddenly have you in its grasp.  That scared me, and I remember.  How could I ever forget?

We attended church at the Mer Rouge Baptist Church every Sunday morning, located just a block from the one-block main street.  These young men would often sit together, or if they had kids, they sat with their families.  I always wondered why they sat together.  And I also wondered why our preacher spent so much time before the morning service talking with them.  Sometimes a kid’s questions are never answered.  I figured it out later.

It’s true that they taught me that war is not glamorous, fun, or something you would want to do.  I learned about the human element in war, which affects us differently and unpredictably.  It brings out the best and worst in humans.  And that war is unimaginably horrific.  To me, these men were real live heroes I could see and hear; right in front of me.2

These young me are now very old, or they have passed away.  I hope that I wasn’t the only one listening to them speak of their combat experiences.  Otherwise, their stories will be lost forever.

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  1. A few years ago, I wrote about a neighbor called Mr. Simons. He owned a dairy farm and hired me to do some odd jobs.  He was a combat veteran of WWII.  Just another unexpected privilege growing up in America.   https://www.theleadermaker.com/leadership-and-milking-the-cow/
  2. https://www.theleadermaker.com/military-heroes-in-my-time/

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Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

29 thoughts on “Growing Up around Combat Veterans

  1. Erleldech

    I agree, Gen. Satterfield, that it is, today, difficult to find combat veterans from WW2 or the Korean War. But there are many from the Vietnam War and others since. Can you find them? Yes, easily. Go to a VFW or Amer. Legion post or a DAV event, or a 4th of July parade. You can find combat vets or any vet anywhere, in the store, walking their dogs, eating out at a restaurant. They are there for the finding. Most will be happy to talk to you.

    Reply
  2. DocJeff

    Thanks Gen. Satterfield. But it is not too late for young folks to speak with these vets. But now you have to hunt them out and ask to speak to them directly. Do it today, before it is too late.

    Reply
    1. Harry Man

      DocJeff, good point but it doesn’t excuse them for not trying. If you ask, you shall receive. You can’t get there without trying, so I say to our young folks, “Go for it. Contact a Vet and talk with them.” What else can they do. The next generation will not have any opportunity to talk with these vets.

      Reply
  3. Lady Hawk

    Excellent article, “priviledged”? I don’t think that is the right word. Fortunate is better to describe you’re meeting these men.

    Reply
  4. Winston

    From what I’ve read, this is a common theme from Gen. Satterfield, ” I learned about the human element in war, which affects us differently and unpredictably.” Leadership is about taking that unpredictability and making it understandable and predictable.

    Reply
    1. Dead Pool Guy

      You got that right Winston. It is easy for folks like me to read and write from the comfort of my easy chair (and my dog sitting beside me) but it is different for those in combat to do it. Gen. Satterfield did it. Congrats to him.

      Reply
  5. The Kid 1945

    Another great article. Gen. Satterfield, I’m not sure I would use the term “priviledged.” Lucky is perhaps a better word but neither matter. What is important is what you did with it. Being around these combat vets peaked your interest and you took time to speak with them and learn.

    Reply
  6. MrJohn22

    I missed this past weekend reading Gen. Satterfield’s blog because I was out helping a number of homeless veterans find shelter. That was important for me to do. Now I’m back and raring to go. Great articles for the past few days, thanks!

    Reply
    1. Eye Cat

      Great Mr. John22. This is what we should all be doing ….. helping our fellow human beings, those that for some reason cannot help themselves.

      Reply
  7. Adolf Menschner

    You certainly had great opportunities as a kid but you took it and embraced those combat veterans. I think that shows good character.

    Reply
  8. Jonnie the Bart

    Showed you their scars too, I suspect. Scary for a kid, yep! My friend’s dad was in the Korean War. His stories were hair raising crazy.

    Reply
      1. Jerome

        Me too saw these men, good men, scars and terror sometimes, but good men. Neighbors.

        Reply
  9. Bryan Z. Lee

    Hey, Gen. Satterfield, somehow I missed your article on milking cows. Now, that was a very entertaining article and if there are more, let us know. Somehow, I think, these odd jobs you had (like nearly every kid growing up in the 1950s and 60s) help make you who you are. Congrats again on your book, ‘Our Longest Year in Iraq.’ Keep up the great works you are doing.

    Reply
  10. Laughing Monkey

    Gen. Satterfield, for the past few weeks, I’ve really enjoyed your articles. If you could give us some more on your upcoming ‘rumored’ new book on leadership, I would appreciate it. Maybe even some chapter notes. Hey, just thinking. 😊

    Reply
    1. Yusaf from Texas

      I’m with you an the request Laughing Monkey. Let’s have Gen. Satterfield give us something to read over. I’m willing to do some editing if he needs someone.

      Reply
      1. Rev. Michael Cain

        This is something we call all agree upon. Over the past few years, I’ve learned a great deal by reading Gen. Satterfield’s leadership pages. Recently, I truly have been enjoying the stories he tells. A man of great humility and smarts. You can’t beat that in a leader. If a leader can tell you the truth, then stick by him (or her). You can gain only good things from such a relationship.

        Reply
  11. Pooch T.

    Excellent article, Gen. Satterfield and thank you for telling the story of combat veterans, and that they returned to normal lives and just wanted to have a decent, respectable job, family, friends, and to go to the church of their choice. Straight forward and I think what most good people want.

    Reply
    1. Willie Strumburger

      Got that right Pooch. And, they can live day to day without the dangers they faced when in combat. Their priorities in life are very focused.

      Reply
  12. Chuck USA

    “It’s true that they taught me that war is not glamorous, fun, or something you would want to do. ” This quote is an important point. More young people should know this.

    Reply
  13. Gil Johnson

    INDEED, priviledged. Not in the way our whacko leftists think of privilege.

    Reply
    1. Commie Red

      They are not ‘wacko’ to believe the core of western civ is based on racism. That is what makes all great nations successful by stepping on the poor and marginalized.

      Reply
      1. Kenny Foster

        Commie, do you get this from Marx or did you make it up. Show some examples where this occurred.

        Reply
      2. Max Foster

        Commie Red, even if you were able to show it, so what? Go back in time. Those who were conquered, also conquered another civilization. Take your logic further back. Besides, we don’t ‘conquer’ territory any more. Well, unless you are Russia. Oops, they are Marxists so they don’t do such things but just come in and help some people ‘see the light’ of communism.

        Reply
        1. Pink Cloud

          Max, back in style, I see. Good points. Marxism and its variant neo-Marxism are all failed ideologies but those inside it cannot see it for what evil it is.

          Reply
    2. Veronica Stillman

      Ha Ha. Well said Gil. Gen. Satterfield makes many good points here today.

      Reply

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