The title of this piece may ring a bell with Baby Boomers and their parents. “Run Silent, Run Deep” was a classic war film from 1958 starring two of the country’s hottest male stars. The title comes from the submarine tactic of diving as deep as possible and operating as quietly as possible in the hopes of avoiding detection. Sadly, subs are not the only things that can run silent and deep.
Feelings run deep and silent in many cases. Some humans can hide and endure pain without a whimper. Silence, for many in pain, is the rule. Consider the picture below. If you had been aboard that bomber the day it crashed, you might be hiding a bit of pain and fear for a time. That is why the beat-up B-24 Liberator pictured below triggered the story of running silent and deep, leading to the original version of this post.
This picture was taken somewhere in North Africa shortly after the crash-landing. I first heard the story of this incident as a child. The bomber was returning from a mission over Italy. Unfortunately, it did not have quite enough fuel to make it back to base. The good news is most of the crew walked away from the crash with minimal injuries.
The sad news is one crew member did not walk away from the crash on his own. He survived, but he sustained injuries that would haunt him for the rest of his life. They were serious but not serious enough to send him home. He continued to serve his country in North Africa and the European Theater until Germany surrendered. That fellow was Ralph Jackson, my dad.
The photo below is from another war and time. It is late 1968 or early 1969, and the location was Cu Chi, Vietnam. The soldiers pictured here are the 515 Engineer Platoon, 554 Engineering Battalion, and one of them is my brother and Ralph’s son. David is one of the 58,318 Vietnam veterans listed at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and is memorialized on Panel 31W – Line 68.
Sometime after this picture was taken, in the early hours of February 26, 1969, David died fighting Viet Cong insurgents attacking the base. He was not alone. Thirteen other soldiers were killed in that attack, and at least thirty were wounded.
I wrote this piece to remember and honor Ralph, David, and the others who served and fought for this country. Some came home as David did in a casket. Others came home in wheelchairs, on crutches, and in constant pain. Still, others came home with injuries and scars no one could see. Those casualties include Ralph and at least one of the guys in this picture.
The crash left Ralph with internal injuries beyond the capabilities of the military doctors. In fact, they were beyond the scope of medicine in general in the 1940s. The doctors got him back into the war, but they could not make him normal. The best they could do was give him drugs to keep him going. He returned home in 1945, addicted to pain killers and facing a life few could imagine, much less endure.
David’s story ended that night in Vietnam. He was no longer in pain, physically or emotionally. That is not true for everyone in his platoon. One told this writer everything changed the night of the attack. He planned to make the Army his career. Instead, when his tour was over, he rotated home and left the service.
Today, he has a great family, a successful business, and haunting memories. He once shared a flashback of sorts with me concerning David. He was at a baseball game rooting for his grandson’s team. Suddenly he remembered David and thought, “David never had the chance to have a child, much less watch his grandson play ball.” Yes, like many others, he left a part of himself in Vietnam, along with the blood of his comrades.
Despite the physical pain, Ralph Jackson also managed to have a life after the war. He managed to beat the addiction to pain killers, but part of him was mired in the memories of North Africa. His mangled internal organs were a constant reminder of the crash and other close calls. If he ate or drank the wrong thing, he suffered for hours. Cold sweats and nightmares haunted his sleep for decades. He ended up a lonely man, old before this time.
Today, Veterans Day 2021, and beyond, we need to remember the millions who have served this country. Whether they died in combat, came home relatively unscathed, or suffered from the aftermath of their service for years, they deserve our respect. They deserve to be remembered!
* This is an edited and updated version of a piece originally published 11/11/2015. Given what happened this year in Afghanistan, it seemed appropriate to revive it.
© oneoldcop.com – 2021