My Father the Patriot......
My Father , twenty -seven years old when he enlisted in 1942 ,the United States Army Infantry , served during the second world war , leaving at home unknowingly , a pregnant wife who would later desert her marriage for another man while my father slugged away at surviving in battle . My Father worked at the time for an Pratt and Whitney aircraft engine industry and could have , if chosen so , to be defered from serving in war by staying with his job . However , the patriotic rising waves of the nation pulled him into the raging sea of war . And pull him in it did !
A farmers son from a barely surviving small town in Northern Vermont , he had somehow survived a poor and tragic childhood in this very rural upbringing , Not many people realize that in the nineteen twenties and thirties , it wasn't unusual at all to have been an indentured laborer or house servant as a young boy or girl , poverty , hunger and desperation would often drive a parent to "lease " out a child for serving as farm or house labor to another family, "better off " than yours. I have seen the written permission slips by parents to loan out ,for certain payments , a child to pay off a dept or to provide a few dollars a week for income .
It seems strange to hold in your hand these handwritten notes from my grandparents of long ago that had to be kept in the town clerks offices for records , For instance , if a truant officer had seen a young boy cutting hay in a farm field , the farmer would have to "prove " this child was out of school legitimately !
Poverty often seems a twin brother to tragedy in life , and if that's not true , you could not prove it by my Fathers youth . He never shared much of his youth or his war memoies unless he was suffering from the effects of alcohol , but when he did ! The foggy images of long ago tragedy and of war come fully clear as if when we talked you could envision the fully colored images on a large flat screened TV. And yet , in each voiced secret , for lack of a better word , that was often divulged for me at least , there was the knowing that the reality is often romanticized by the simple and spounge like minds of an interested son .
Quite often , in an altered state of mind , my Father would reach out as I walked by his chair and wrap his arm , almost desperately , around me to trap me in a bear hug ! When that happened , it usually meant ........"okay , time for a war story ".......Now I have no regrets , This writing isn't about me , it's about a man who returned from one of the most mind altering states of the human condition . War . And I also believe , his need to confess his sins perhaps , and to relate his experiences in life or to tell of the personal histories in real life time were important to him , especially though , when altered by the alcohol that became his curse and his own personal medication .
Our conversations were often started by my questions , those of a young boy trying desperately to find his identity , or his own path to adulthood . Yet , whatever the reason for a question , there was almost always an answer and like it or not ,in full color , in extensive detail . Even now I can hear his voice in his mono-toned heavily country accented rhythmic voice . Now nothing whatsoever was spared for the sake of a childs mind . Be it blood on the hands or the bodies on the ground or the secrets that lie hidden in the minds dark corners half consumed by personal acceptance .My Father was a casualty of war .I mean that symbolically Yes , he survived through one of the most dark ages of modern warfare , though not without scars .......both on the flesh and on the soul.
Now , as I think back to a time when a young soldier sat in the snow covered and broken pine forests ,where he had slept the night before , drinking cold coffee , cleaning his 50 caliber machine gun and listening to the big 88's ,the German Howitzsers thunder across the skies over his head and light up even the cold dawning skies , I realize how much a true patriot he was ! He often spoke of how he would rise early in the battlefields of Normandy and on into Germany in winter and look out across sleeping bodies of his fellow soldiers under blankets covered in snow and watch thier frozen breath rise from beneath the wool army blankets . And think .........what is the meaning of all of this , of war , of death ,blood and screams of the wounded on both sides of the battle front ?
He often talked about the long lines poor German civilian refuges that would march by them in the opposite directions and beg for food , for water , for anything , a blanket , or a coat . My Father never liked dogs in life after the war , seriously . He spoke of marching across Belgium
and watching the half wild and starving dogs eating the dead bodies that lined the battlefields , When I would ask, " what would you do when you saw this ?" He would reply , " we would shoot the dogs ".
I believe the reason that I write about this and about him is that I think not a lot of people today appreciate the extreme personal costs of a soldier in battle . Especially , to me anyway , the American soldier , going off to "save " or defend another country . I shake my head in disbelief at the rants of anti-war people who have never been anywhere but to a liberal college and who have never been to another country except on a student exchange program . My plan is to write about the memories he spoke of , individual memories, of tragedies , of a young and innocent soldier thrown into the middle of the caos ,into the dark and the misty fog of war !