As so many others are reflecting on our soldiers today, my thoughts turn to memories of those I have known personally who have served, as well as the many others who have sacrificed so much for us.
My own father served in the Army during WWII, and came very close to leaving for overseas duty. He and my mother had married just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. I can’t even imagine the feelings of fear and dread they must have been experiencing then, as young newlyweds.
I also think of my Uncle Mike, my mother’s brother, who was temporarily blinded while fighting in Italy. Many years later, he told the family, “Most Americans have no idea how close we came to losing the war.”
My mother’s other brother Harry, also fought overseas, although I know little of his story.
My mother’s sister, Helen, served in the Women’s Army Corp. She landed in Berlin as the war was winding down. Oh, the stories she could tell! When she got off the train on arrival, she was overtaken by the horrendous smell. She turned to a bystander and asked, “What is that terrible smell?” He answered flatly “Oh, that’s the smell of death. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it.” And surprisingly, she did. She had to.
My dad had a cousin who was gassed in WWII. He came home and lived with his mother. He was “never quite right” after the war.
My time in high school was marred by the draft, and seeing my classmates called up for duty in Vietnam. I can still picture one particularly handsome, dark-haired fellow. He and his girlfriend, a Liz Taylor look-a-like, used to be regulars at a dance pavilion right on the beach. I still envision those two gorgeous creatures lighting up the dance floor together. It was awesome. A couple of years later, I saw him (minus her) again. He’d lost a leg and was blind in one eye.
Then there was my own early marriage to a Marine, who served two tours in Nam. My “tour/marriage” lasted nineteen years.
My second and current husband attended Augusta Military Academy in Ft. Defiance, Virginia. He went on to serve in the Army, narrowly missed going to Korea, where many of his classmates died. He later thought about re-enlisting during the Vietnam War. But by then he had a family to consider, and decided against it.
So many memories swim back to me on this Memorial Day……..