Doug Bruns

The Heros.

In Death, Family on May 30, 2010 at 7:54 am

I was thirteen at the on-set of the Tet Offensive. But it was several years prior to Tet, that I realized people die early waging war. I say die early in the context of the individual life, that men and scores of women and children, all still carrying the imprint of youth, expire and with them the potential of their lives. I recall discovering this and being shocked by it. Life, I reasoned, was so dear that surely it could not end like that for means so questionable. But it did. And still does. War is a fact of history. It is, too, likely a certitude of the future. But I am not writing to moralize on war. It is Memorial Day, the day we commemorate the men and women who died in military service.  That war is the practice of death and dying is a sobering realization and we do well to remind ourselves of this by honoring those who have been subjected to it.

I am named after a Captain Douglas, 99th Infantry Division. Captain Douglas got my father out of the Ardennes Forest after the Germans broke through the lines in the winter of 1944. The Captain delivered him, and many others trapped and waiting in their foxholes, to safety, snaking them through the forest and escaping. The Battle of the Bulge is the single largest battle of World War II. More than a million men–600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans, and 55,000 British–were engaged. There are estimates of up to 200,000 casualties for both sides.

Many years later I contacted the Department of the Army and replaced the Bronze Star my father had been awarded during the war. It had been stolen. He was not interested necessarily in replacing it, and had let the war recede in memory. The paperwork that accompanied the replacement called my father a hero. He was moved when I gave it to him. He was polite in accepting it and seemed touched by the gesture. A few days later I got a letter from him. In it he said he was not a hero, as the service record claimed. The heroes, he said, where the one’s who did not return.

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