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Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial Day 2022

" . . . we will remember them."


The Great Depression lingered into 1940 in rural Texas, and my beloved uncle, along with most of the men shown alongside him in this picture, joined the Texas National Guard to make extra money. Within six weeks after Pearl Harbor, he was off to war as part of the now famous Texas 36th Division.  My mother recalled the whole town seeing them off, and she said, "We cheered and waved and encouraged them, but as soon as they were out of sight, nearly every man, woman, and child broke down and cried in the street.  We knew we'd never see a lot of them again."  She was right.  The 36th fought in North Africa, Italy, the invasion of Southern France, and the final push into Germany itself.  The picture above was made in Italy in the winter of 1943-44.  The men were gathered along a sunny wall to stay warm when a buddy snapped this photo.  Of the seven men in this picture, three were killed in action and one was taken prisoner.  Two of the survivors were seriously wounded, including my uncle who was wounded twice and awarded the Bronze Star.  This is his Purple Heart, along with his combat badges:

Most of those who returned, including my dear uncle, suffered from what we now recognize as PTSD.  Their sacrifices went on for decades, and today we stop to remember them.  Take another look at the faces of those men in the picture and think about what they went through.  Then be thankful.
We owe them everything.

 

8 comments:

  1. Great post. Thanks for the personal reminder of what this day is really about.

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  2. Lovely but heart-wrenching story. Thanks for putting it out there. My dad too served in the war as medical/dental on a Tender Ship. I have a great photo of him with his 'best buddy' from their ship in the Phillipines. Would love to share it with but unsure of how to go about it. JD

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    1. Thanks for the nice comment. You can reach me on the contact form at upper right and either send the photo as an attachment (it's tricky) or let me send you the direct blog email by return message.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this great, but heart-wrenching story. Your mother's recollection is right outta Shirley Jackson or Rod Serling. Even as teen and young man I was aware of the suffering of Vietnam vets. However, my knowledge of WWII was nostalgia based, although I did see the dark WWII film, "A Midnight Clear," which seemed more like a fairy tale than a war movie. I'm embarrassed to admit that it was not until I saw "Saving Private Ryan" that I had even the inkling of an idea of how bad it was for these great servicemen.

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    1. You're welcome, Leroy. My uncle rarely talked about his experiences in the war, but he did sit down with my cousins before he died and shared some of it. Despite the PTSD, he could be funny, and whenever I saw him as a child and teenager, he usually had some corny joke to tell. There were times, though, when he would be angry or despondent for no apparent reason. I asked my mother about that, and all she said was, "Look at the scars on the back of his neck and on his arms. That's why." But that was just the obvious part. The truly awful scars were not visible.

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  4. Jerry, thank you for sharing such a personal remembrance. Your writing is quite exquisite. It evoked in me the grief that I -- and most of us -- are currently feeling for all the victims of mass shootings in recent weeks. Actually, in recent years. All the comments above say very well what I feel.

    I was wondering which soldier in your photo is your uncle. If you don't care to share that info, I understand.

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    1. Trust me, the mass shootings were on my mind when I wrote this. Unlike most of my posts, I did this one on the day it appeared. Uncle has living children, and out of respect for them, I won't identify him. Thanks for understanding.

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