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November 11, 2011

Every Veteran’s Day, I like to take moment to remember those who have served.  My very first elder law client, the one that inspired me to concentrate in this area as a specialty, was George Koch.  George served in World War II, and received, among other things, a Purple Heart, and a Combat Infantry Badge.  He was with the Army’s 16th Infantry, 1st Division, and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, in Ardennes, France.  He was also a very prolific writer and authored a book called the “Voice of the Ardennes”.  I keep a copy of the book on my desk to remind me of the importance of doing my job to the best of my ability.

Before he died, George gave me a book called “Danger Forward” which chronicles the history of the 1st Division.  Although he was himself a writer, he had marked a certain passage that he said was better than any description he had ever written of the time he had spent in the Ardennes.

How could you tell them.  How could you convey with words cold which burned fingers as they touched metal, jammed automatic weapons and even condensed and froze breath on the diaphragm of the microphones so that our radios would not work. What narrative form could paint the suffering of men who had no sleep for as long as three days and nights, no hot meal for days, no overcoats or blankets because they could not be brought up over the impossible roads? How could you describe the feelings of men who day after day had to fight in conditions which only polar bears could find tolerable….conditions which could not be worse for fighting?  Did they grumble?  Of course they grumbled and blaspheme like hell.  But they fought like hell too.

I can still picture George sitting in his chair in the living room, with the oversized custom-made shoes he wore because he feet had been ravaged by frostbite, reading this passage to me, and trying to get me to appreciate the sacrifice he and others had made for our country.  I hope I always remember.

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