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Different Sand, Different Eyes

May 17, 2018 by Abby Foyle

December 7, 1941. To John, it’s as if it happened yesterday. While the eyes of the world are on the erupting volcano on Hawai’i, his eyes are distantly focused on a different time, a different event in history; when planes dive-bombed out of the sky, bringing chaos and death to a place normally defined by its peace and tranquility. His life was forever changed in that moment; in the crucible of destruction, John was re-made. It was then that he formed unbreakable bonds with his brothers-in-arms, in a moment when the important things in life stood out in sharp definition. How can he not still live in that in-between place, where idyllic white sand and softly waving palms contrast so strongly with the whine of propellers and the scream of crunching metal?

He had moved on since then--had come home and built a new life in Kent. He had a family and was the steady provider—a Boeing engineer, the cheerful father to his children and loving husband for his wife. But the years took more than his partner—they stole his memories, the time he invested in the people around him. As dementia set in, John found himself back in Pearl Harbor, back in the midst of heartache and loss, but also in the midst of camaraderie and a hope for a better future. His eyes, while they may not see the world for what it is right now, see a world that many of us have been saved from because of his sacrifice.

The Comfort Keepers caregiver leans forward in his chair, rapt in his attention to John’s story. He is a polite, earnest young man, serving in the National Guard. His service looks dissimilar from John’s in many ways—technology has advanced us into a new age, the names of our enemies form different pictures in our minds, and the focus is on a place with different sand, but the fear of suicidal pilots and the bonds formed in combat are very much the same. While John’s eyes see pieces of ships littering the ocean and the calm blue sky cloudy with smoke, Frank pictures a dirt path showered with debris and bunkers hidden in the desert. They can connect over this, though; this desire to serve their country, to put their lives on the line to preserve the freedom and privilege we all share. And as Memorial Day approaches, both John and Frank can both see fallen comrades as if they were still standing in front of them.

If you or a loved one is a veteran, there are many services available in King County to assist with care. It can be as simple as hiring Comfort Keepers to provide a caregiver to spend time with them and listen to their stories. Many senior centers have opportunities for veterans to provide social support for each other and to connect over shared memories. If you need more direct services, such as counseling or assistance with transportation, Aging and Disability Services in King County (http://www.agingkingcounty.org/help-information/veterans/) can help. For questions about benefits and support, contact the VFW Quartermaster in Fife (5213 Pacific Highway E): email at wastatevfwqmtr@aol.com, or call for an appointment at 253-922-7422.

For any questions, or to hear more about how Comfort Keepers can serve our veterans, call 253-945-1400.

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