Thank you, Mr. Spude. Thank you, Mr. Kwaterski. Thank you, Mr. Peil. Thank you, Frank. Thank you to all the veterans, past and present, for your service to our great country.
I remember a few years back, one day in my afternoon office, removing a piece of shrapnel from the neck of a WWII veteran. He’d had it all these years, but only now was it bothering him enough such that he wanted it removed. It was superficial, just under the skin, in front of the sternocleidomastoid muscle, about half-a-inch from the carotid artery.
He told me that he’d air-dropped into France in the days after D-day. He and a small group of men became separated from their unit, or weren’t dropped exactly where they should have been. A unit of German Infantry saw them land and started firing. He felt a sting at the side his neck but didn’t realize he’d been hit until later, after he and the other Americans evaded the pursuing forces and re-united with a larger group.
There were two pieces of lead in his neck, one just a bit smaller than a pea, but irregular, and another about half that size. They came out easily enough and I put them in a plastic specimen container. I held them up to the light; two pieces of metal from sixty years ago that came within a finger’s breadth of killing the man in front of me who risked his life for the freedom of his children, and me.
“Thank You,” was all I could say.