A resident of our assisted living community, he dressed in Hawaiian shirts every day, so they were immediately visible. And, while one might think that made him immediately all smiley and pleasant, that wasn’t the case. Between his build, his general demeanor and his many tattoos, he was a bit intimidating—even at 80-some years old.
One day, however, I decided to get to know him a little better. Approaching him in the dining room, I smiled and asked, “Mr. Slusher, where’d you get all the tattoos?” As he pointed first to one and then another, he told me where he had gotten “inked” during his service in World War II.
When he finished, I was confused. I knew enough about the history of the war to know that once you went in, you generally stayed in one theater of operations—Europe or the Pacific, perhaps the Mediterranean. Mr. Slusher, however, was all over the world.
Collecting my thoughts and still somewhat intimidated by him, I asked, “Mr. Slusher, what exactly was it that you did in the service?” I stood in awe as he described how he was on the Underwater Demolition Team (the precursor to today’s SEALS). Along with other team members, he was the first one to take part in every invasion, blowing up obstacles, clearing the way for others in the Army, Navy or Marines to land troops.
He was at D-Day in Normandy before anyone set foot on the beaches. He was on the way to be dropped off in Tokyo harbor (I would imagine by submarine) to blow up ships when the war ended. And he knew that he was the last member of his unit that was still alive.
I would have loved to have learned more, but that was all he would say. You see, Mr. Slusher had made a promise many years ago to never talk about what he had done. He knew others who had broken that promise. And he hated them for it.
As we get ready to remember Veteran’s Day, I remember Mr. Slusher. He was truly a hero. A man of honor. A man of great integrity. As were many of those who served alongside and came after him–men and women.
Although they may sit next to you at the dining room table and never speak of what they did, know that they helped make it possible for you to have the freedom you now enjoy. To eat the meal you may share. At perhaps very great expense on their part.