For Ted

Most people don’t know Ted Rensink, and there’s no reason they should. No one’s made a movie about him, and while his name does appear in a book (or will when it's published this January), he doesn’t fill up many pages.

But Ted played a big role in their lives. Ted was a National Guard volunteer from the Midwest in 1941 when the President finally managed to wake the country up about what was going on in Europe. Ted, just a kid then, found himself on the way to the Louisiana swamps. It was a strange place, like another planet, but it wasn’t anywhere near the strangest place he’d visit over the next three or four years.

Eventually, Ted and a few hundred other young men found themselves in Ireland. Bored and anxious to do something to help America after Pearl Harbor, Ted volunteered for the Rangers, a new commando-style unit that promised plenty of action. Ted was a pretty capable kid, and after only a few days he was selected for what would have been a suicide mission, though of course he didn't it at the time -- and in fact wouldn't realize it for sixty some years. Fortunately for him, the mission was called off.

He was disappointed, but within a few months was fighting in Africa, then Sicily, then Italy proper. He doesn’t tell many stories about it these days, but the after-action reports make it clear that the battles he was in weren’t just walks in the park.

The war over, Ted went home and picked up more or less where he’d left off, a little older, a little wiser, but most of all with some of the best friends a man could have. He married a beautiful woman, raised a fantastic family, and quietly became an important part of his community.

Not a story for the newspapers, certainly not one for a movie or novel. But Ted and the millions of men and women like him, quietly living their lives, have been the backbone of this country for many years. They’re our fathers, our grandfathers, our brothers, our sons, ourselves. They served in World War II, and in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf. They served during war, and during peace.

I’ve been privileged to meet a few, not because they were heroes, not because their quiet manners often belie their wartime deeds, but because they’re regular men and women, and therefore a reminder of what we can all achieve.

Happy Veterans Day.

No comments: