My father was a Marine. And a damn handsome one. He served during the Vietnam conflict (stationed on board the Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier) and was away from us for many years while serving his country. He doesn't talk about his experiences in the war. Ever.
There are pictures of him from his Marine days all around his house and he wears his "Retired Veteran" baseball cap with pride. Not to mention the "Proud to be a Marine" bumper stickers competing for space with the Philadelphia Eagles car magnets on his bumper. But still, he never talks about it.
His son, Joe, became a Marine and served for 10 years (including the first Gulf War). My dad was proud as punch and when Joe presented him with an engraved sword in an elaborate Marine ceremony honoring a retired veteran, we all cried and my dad hung that sword on the wall. It's still there. But he doesn't talk about his service.
Dad, his wife MaryAnn and I took a trip to the Marine museum in Quantico, Virginia last year. Gorgeous museum. Eye oepning exhibits, making me proud and sad at the same time. My dad answered my questions when we walked through the Vietnam portion of the museum, but still, he didn't talk much about it.
Then we sat down for a movie about the brotherhood of the Marines. It was sentimental. It was moving. It was stirring (the Marines know how to do pomp and circumstance and they certainly know how to make a bunch of young men brothers to each other). I glanced over and saw the tears on my dad's cheek. He didn't have to say anything. I know, Dad. And thanks.