Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veteran's Day

My father and three of his brothers served in the Armed Forces during World War II, his three brothers serving overseas. Leon and Devon, twin brothers, were eight years older than him. Leon was a bombardier on a B-24 Liberator serving all over the Pacific Islands. Daddy wrote my sisters and me on Veteran's Day 1998 telling us about the letter he got from his brother Leon during the war just after Christmas of 1944. Leon, Daddy wrote, "was writing this in a foxhole with only a flashlight to see by. His plane had many large holes made by the anti-aircraft fire, but they made it back to Guadalcanal. Three men in his crew died that Christmas night to preserve the freedom we now enjoy."

Uncle Leon's twin brother, my Uncle Devon, airlifted men and supplies to Japan. Roy, the brother who was just four years older than my father, was a pilot of P51 Mustangs in Europe. Their older brother Arthur, Daddy wrote us, was too old for the draft and brokenhearted that he was not able to volunteer as his four younger brothers had because his first child had been born with medical problems. Daddy told us that Arthur pulled off the highway, breaking down and saying, "I wish I were you, going to defend our country, leaving behind a healthy child." Arthur's four younger brothers were proud of him because they knew he and our Aunt Ira were carrying on important work on the home front.

Daddy reminded us that, "Not all sacrifices were made by the military. I still see the drawn, worried face of my mother as she stared at the little banner in her window that had four little blue stars, representing her four sons in service. She would say how happy she was that no star was gold signifying one had died in service."

My own mother, as did thousands of other service wives, sacrificed also. She and I, a baby and then toddler, followed him from base to base when possible, enjoying the little time he could be with us on weekends as they prepared for the long separation that could come when he was deployed.

We lived most of the time in homes of one of the many Americans who rented out rooms to service wives, some becoming like family for many years to come.

After basic training in Miami Beach, Daddy left for Latrobe, Pennsylvania where the men were given an intensive college course, Mama and I joining him there.



Then it was off to basic officer training at Maxwell Field in Alabama. Primary training was at Arcadia, Florida, basic flying at Bainbridge, Georgia, and advance twin engine flying in Mississippi where he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. Next he was off to Columbus, Ohio where he trained on B-17s. His unit was awaiting orders to Europe when Germany surrendered. Instead of being sent to Europe, his unit went to Maxwell Field to train on B-29s, expecting after that to be sent to the Pacific. Again Providence intervened. It was 1945 and they had been on standby awaiting orders to fly to Omaha, Nebraska to pick up their new B-29s when their commander called them to a theater to tell them their orders had been suspended after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The following day he convened them again to announce that their orders had been cancelled because of the bombing of Nagasaki.

Our family was fortunate. All of Daddy's three brothers came safely home too.

It was important to Daddy, in his 1998 letter to us, to admonish us to honor the significance of Veteran's Day and the sacrifices made by people serving in our military services. He did not want us to ever forget them. Now that Daddy is gone we remind our children.






3 comments:

  1. You're post today mom really means a lot. I'm always amazed how much I learn when I get to listen to some of the stories from veterans at work when when I get the chance.

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  2. Thank you, Gurn. I'm so glad you had a chance to know your grandfather while you were growing up.

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  3. I have to add a thank you to my cousin, daughter of my Uncle Leon, who was touched by the account of her father's wartime letter to my father in my Veteran's Day post above. She linked it to her Facebook and so many friends and family have viewed it after seeing it on her Facebook page and mine. We have to keep these stories going, cousins, so our grandchildren and their's will know them.

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