Memorial Day Remembered 1958
Dad looked years younger in
his army uniform, handsome even. He stood so straight and tall in the drizzle of the cemetery that I stood straighter too.
As I waited for the ceremony to begin, I thought about all the things he’d told me about WW II.
He’d been a young man
heading off to war in the early 1940’s, yet older than many of the raw teen recruits.
Born in 1912, Dad had to be in his middle
to late twenties, not so young after all, and not so long married. As other wives of the time, Mom let him go to save the
world from the Nazi and Fascist menace of oppression, from those who hated those “different” from themselves.
And the soldiers did, quite literally, save the world for democracy and freedom.
Even the decision to bomb Japan
came out of a desperate desire to break the back of an enemy who viewed suicide missions as the highest form of worship, and
to bring an end to a war that dragged on far too long. Too many lives had been lost. Japan drew us into that war with the
unprovoked bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Dad became a medic and followed the soldiers in North Africa and Italy. He worked directly behind the
front lines before these units became known as M.A.S.H Units.
He was justly proud of his service to his country and often told me stories, when I begged,
of his days in the army. Purposely, I’m sure now, he kept his stories in a lighter vein.
He chuckled as he told me of another medic,
sent to pick up fallen soldiers, who found himself behind enemy lines. “He drove,” said Dad, “like crazy
trying to find his way back to safety. He made it, too. ”
enjoyed telling me about one pompous lieutenant. “He was used to the finer things of life,” Dad told me. “Somehow,
he managed to carry an air mattress along from location to location, though I’m not exactly sure how he managed that.”
Dad’s arms tightened around
me as I sat in his lap and leaned against the security of his chest. “One night enemy planes strafed our camp. Ah, that
is, they shot at us from low flying planes,” Dad explained.
“Oh.” My eyes widened.
Dad hurried to say, “Of course we all ducked for cover.”
“Was...was anyone hurt?”
“No, Carolyn, not that
time.” A grin spread across his face. “That lieutenant had been sleeping when the planes flew over. They missed
the officer, but a bullet went straight through that air mattress.
“The air wooshed out and he landed whop! on the hard ground. That thing went flat as
a pancake. That was the end of the lieutenant’s comfortable bed.” Dad laughed.
He told other stories, too, some more grim.
He told of being forced, by
circumstance, to do medical treatments for which he had little or no training. When he returned home, he never forgot.
All this flitted through my
mind as I stood that Memorial Day chilled from the cold drizzle along with the rest of my elementary school classmates.
We’d been invited to march
with the soldiers, who were all in their smart uniforms, carrying flags to graves at the local cemetery.
Waving our little flags, we stood at attention as the soldiers, in unison, aimed and fired
their rifles into the air.
I knew the graves held the bodies of men and women, brave soldiers, who hadn’t come home alive from
war, and I choked up. I glanced at my father; glad he wasn’t one of them. As though understanding, he smiled a soft,
rather sad smile.
I’d feel Dad’s arms around me again, but many soldiers didn’t come home, don’t come home.
And yet, I sensed a certain pride among these soldiers, and I felt grateful for their sacrifice, for some, the ultimate sacrifice.
Dad said later, “Going
to war for a just cause is the price we must pay. Each generation has a sacrifice to make for freedom.”
...It may take sacrifice of
things, of people, of lifestyle, but most of it takes pulling together in faith to make sure none of those soldiers who gave
their lives, gave them needlessly.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. --John 15:13
2009 Carolyn R Scheidies Tales of a Simpler Time: Wisconsin Childhood Remembered