Desert, Jungle, and Desk

To mark Veterans Day, the members of GEaR are sharing stories of their connections to the military and what the significance of the holiday is to them. This post is the first in a series that will conclude on November 11.

By Nick Bratton, Chief Operating Officer

Important influences in my childhood were my grandfathers, Vincent Bratton and Joseph Schneller. Both served in the Second World War in different ways. Vincent Bratton was from Durham in northern England and he served in the British Army. During the earlier years of the war he fought Rommel in the deserts of North Africa. Later, after the Allies had prevailed in that theater, he was posted to the jungles of Burma.

Here he commanded a prisoner camp where a Japanese battalion surrendered to him. In a show of honor, the Japanese commander presented Vincent with his boots and his sword. The boots vanished over the years, but the sword was handed down to me, which I still have along with Vincent's medals and other memorabilia.

Joseph Schneller had poor eyesight that prevented him from serving on the front lines, however he was an intelligent man and enlisted because he understood there were other contributions he could make to his country that didn't involve fighting.  He was posted to an administrative position in Little Rock, Arkansas.  He went about his work in his trademark quiet and efficient way, and after the Allied victory he used to joke "I commanded a desk for the entire war and never lost a single man."  

What I admire about my grandfathers is that although they came from very different backgrounds (Vincent from the depressed industrial north of England, Joseph an immigrant from today's Czech Republic) they understood the larger meaning of their service and they served honorably in different ways.  They were fortunate to survive the war, and Vincent went on to serve in the armies of Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, earning further distinctions.  

In an era where our society is increasingly insulated from the wars we fight, I believe it is important that we recognize the contributions and sacrifices that our armed services make in order to protect our democracy and national interests.  Not just on Veterans Day, but every time I meet an active duty or retired service member, I make a point to thank them for their contributions.  The daring and sacrifice of John Pritchard, Benjamin Bottoms, and Loren Howarth are the highest examples of service.  This is an occasion to reflect on what they did and reaffirm our commitment to bringing them home.