aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Happy Veterans Day!

Deanne and I grew up with parents who were World War Two veterans, like many of our Boomer contemporaries. But in our case, it wasn't just our dads, but our moms, too.

My father, Ward J Collins, Jr., was a Tech Sgt in the Army Air Force. He served in the European Theater. It was a major turning point in his life. He was baptized by an AAF chaplain at the AAF base at Foggia, Italy. I have his wallet-sized baptismal certificate somewhere. He survived a lot of hairy missions and some desperate landings, but a wall of sandbags eventually fell on him, breaking his leg, and he was invalided home late in the war.

My mother, Margaret Irene Shirley, was a Staff Sgt in the WAC. When the first WAC units were authorized, she was among the first to join up. She was in Intelligence in New Guinea. Despite being in less danger than my father, she had a rougher time. She had what was then called a nervous breakdown toward the end of the war, and while waiting for a ship home was kept tranked by Army doctors with barbiturates. She struggled with depression and with prescription med addiction for years thereafter.

All of my uncles on both sides of the house served in the armed forces, and I believe all of them saw combat. Two of them -- high school friends but not yet related (Uncle Kenny would not marry Aunt Evelyn until after the war) met on the beach on some Pacific Island -- Iwo Jima or Guadalcanal, I think. One was in the Army, the other a Marine. And, of course, one asked the other, "What are you doing here?"

Most of my parents' generation had similar experiences and stories, though I heard remarkably few details growing up. Both my parents wanted to forget much of what they had seen. Despite that, our family had a running joke: we would be watching some movie or documentary or something on TV, and my father would suddenly say, "I bombed that place."

My parents met the year after the war ended when they were both Freshmen at IU. They were married within a year. Their first child, my sister Kathleen, was born the next year.

Deanne's father, DeWitt David Cole, Jr., was an Army officer in Europe. Her mother, Estelle McReynolds, was an Army nurse. They met in France and were married over there by special permission of the Army. Deanne has a silver-plated bowl engraved as a wedding present from her father's fellow unit officers. Their first child, Deanne's brother Daniel, was born the same year as my sister Kathleen.

We were raised by citizen soldiers. The WW 2 veteran was unique, as Bill Mauldin pointed out. They wanted to be a Mister more than to be a Veteran. They were proud of their service, and they valued that service in others, but to them it was just a job to do, and a nasty job it was. They were glad it was over, so they could do other big jobs that needed to be done. We were raised to be patriotic, to respect the flag, to be proud of all our country had accomplished in war and peace.

Somehow, I never got around to serving in the armed forces. The Vietnam War raged all through my adolescence, but by the time I was old enough to serve, it was winding down. I was in a hurry to get other things going in my life, and didn't feel the call to enlist at that time. Although, somehow, I almost joined the Navy about three times over the years (long story), I never did. I am proud of my son-in-law, Brian Waite, who did serve in the Navy.

Between my mother's and father's families, I have ancestors and relatives who fought in every major war the US was ever in, at least through Korea (and probably most of those since, but I haven't heard all the stories). Deanne's family has about as extensive a record of service. We are surrounded by those who have served, and we are grateful for their sacrifice and their example.

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