Friday, May 22, 2009
I thought about how to start this post. I wanted to be profound, but really I don't know if I can. I want to tell you about my family and our service to our country. This sounds arrogant I know, but I'm proud of my family. We have answered our counry's call many times. Most of the times my family was of foreign descent, barely spoke english and still they fought for their adopted country.
Beginning with the First World War, to the Second World War, to the Korea War, to the Vietnam War, there was one of my relatives fighting. In the First World War my grandfather, Marion, who spoke broken English, fought. My uncle Charles, served in the Navy. He was a German speaker as my great grandfather/mother were from Germany. In the Second World War my uncle, Glen fought. In the Korea War my father Charles fought. My cousin and I were in Vietnam. There was always one of us who answered the call. That is something I'm proud of.
I'll show a picture of my father again because I'm proud of him. I miss him everyday and I frequently talk to him. I need to tell you about my uncle Glen in WWII. He joined in 1942 and was assigned to the Army Air Corps. He became a navigator in a B-25 Mitchell bomber assigned to the Pacific. His plane was shot down and he and his crew parachuted into the Indian Ocean. There they stayed for a week. When they were finally found my uncle was the only one alive. Due to his prolonged exposure to the sun, all the hair on his head was burned off. He was bald the rest of his life. Did I mention he flew another 20 missions?
I also had another uncle by marriage who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. One of the enduring memories of my youth is, no memory. My relatives never spoke about their service. Really? Not once. My dad or neither of my uncles wanted to talk about the war. I didn't know anything until I was about 13 years old. For some reason my dad and uncles opened up. I spent about a week wide-eyed listening to what they had to say. Once they told me their stories, my brothers nor I heard anything about it ever again. Here is what they told me:
My grandfather was born in Alliance, Ohio, July 10, 1890. He was raised on a farm, but learned to play a lot of musical instruments. He was drafted in June of 1918 at the age of 28. He was drafted into the Army band, but traded his trombone for a rifle. He trained in Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio and shipped to France in September 1918.
He was supposed to received training upon arrival but was designated for replacement duty. He went into the line and fought to the end of the war in the Meuse-Argonne campaign. He returned with sickness from being gassed. After the war, he made a living playing music and selling notions. According to my parents, that's probably why I love music to this day. He used to sing to me and play music when I was a baby. My grandmother, Lora died in 1934 and left my grandfather with six children. He put them in an orphanage to be raised as the Great Depression swept the country.
In 1942, my uncle Glen graduated and enlisted. My dad, Charles graduated and enlisted in 1947. He was scheduled to get out in 1950, but the Korean War interrupted. He stayed in until he was discharged in 1952. My dad said he didn't do much, but he did his job. That's my dad. I remember my aunt calling about the time the book, "The Greatest Generation" was written. She told my dad to read it because it was about him and my uncle. My dad immediately said "Don't even include me in this book, because I did nothing." She tried to persuade him otherwise, but he would have nothing of it. Life went on. My uncle Jim only shook his head when the subject of the Battle of the Bulge came up. As my friend Z posted, these were heroes, not American Idol.
My dad's greatest day until his children were born was when he and my uncles were drinking beer in a bar one night, sometime around 1954. There was a guy in the bar who was talking about being in the war. My uncles quickly pegged him for a fake. The bartender told him that my uncles were WWII vets and that he should be quiet. For some reason, he focused on my dad. He started saying that everyone in the bar was a war veteran except my dad and that he should be ashamed. My dad didn't say anything because that's my dad. Suddenly by uncle Jim asked the guy where he was in the war. The guy didn't really give an answer and he was apparent as a fraud. My uncle Glen looked at him and said, "This is my brother. He fought for his country in Korea. You are a jackass. Get the hell out of here." The guy left and my dad said he was never prouder. That's pretty cool.
I can only say that I think my dad was proud of me when I went into the military in 1971. Vietnam was still going and he was worried. He asked me, "You know where you're going right?" I was ready for this statement. I said, "Sure dad, but we have always served our country, right?" He looked at me and said, "You"re right, but you know you don't have to go in right.?" I said, "I know but it's what we do, right?" He looked at me, dropped his head and said, "Yeah." I told him that's what I'm doing." He said "Let me tell your mother."
I don't mean to go on but I suspect this is a common story for a lot of Americans. I am a proud to be an American and I would do it all again. I wouldn't even give it a second thought. America is that important.