The Sandy Springs resident is still grateful after all these years for just having made it back home. Pittman’s perspective has only become more resolute with time and age.
“We’re still at war, but at least we’re still our own bosses — our own country — and I appreciate that,” said Pittman, 90. “And, I think we have a lot to be thankful for.
“Even though things are not perfectly smooth, it’s still a great country to be celebrating Memorial Day in.”
He easily recalls his days as a 21-year-old piloting an eight-man B-24 “Liberator” as part of the 492nd Bomb Group in the U.S. Army Air Corps, the forerunner to the Air Force.
These days, Pittman and his wife of 67 years, Ruby, occupy much of their time renovating their historic Queen Anne-style house.
Monday will likely catch them doing much of the same.
Meanwhile, Iraqi and Afghanistan War vet Sean Kuehl, of Midtown, will attempt to pull himself away from his studies at Georgia Tech for a short while to attend a barbecue with a few of his buddies.
For the former Marine, observance of Memorial Day is “bittersweet.”
“I’m glad there’s a holiday that signifies the contributions of [soldiers] who have gone before me and guys who paid the ultimate price,” said Kuehl. “But, to me, it’s [also] unfortunate.”
Kuehl served in a number of different units during three tours of duty in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, ultimately attaining the rank of major.
As one would expect in times of war, those experiences were shaped by a fair share of tragedy. During his second tour in Iraq, the 1,000-man Marines forces suffered more than 400 casualties while fighting in the city of Ramadi.
“For me personally, I think about [fallen soldiers’] families — how their stories go on,” Kuehl said. “It’s not like a movie, where the end credits just roll and it’s over with.
“You have sons and daughters growing up without their fathers, wives losing husbands, parents outliving their kids. … They’re the ones who have to pick up the pieces.”
Those sentiments strike an equally resounding chord with local Korean War vet John Holland.
Holland, who also lives in Midtown, makes it a point to commemorate Memorial Day in some way.
“I usually go to a parade, a ceremony or something like that,” said Holland. “I try to participate as much as I can.”
The former Navy lieutenant didn’t see any action during the war as he was assigned to a communications post aboard a ship looking for possible Russian submarines from Cuba to the Arctic Circle.
“My two years in the Navy were wonderful years,” said Holland. “I still have great regard for military service … anyone who’s served.”