A tribute, to my father, on this Memorial Day (Decoration Day, as it is also called). He fought during WWII, mainly in Italy. He lost his leg while keeping watch for the enemy in a foxhole. My mother once said she dreamt of his injury the night it happened. Mom stood by Dad, through the pains of raising three war babies born in '43, '44, and '45, until he returned in '46 (pictured), after months of recovering in an Army hospital, and a Purple Heart for his service.
Dad and Mom had six more living children together - I am #9. Dad used to scare Mom when he would take the older kids out into the ocean with his leg removed. Then there was the time that Dad & Mom were traveling on vacation with all nine of us, in the station wagon, and he had his prosthesis off when pulling into a gas station. Dad opened his door, the leg turned such that the leg (with attached foot, they were wooden then) was facing opposite its rightful position, and the attendant looked horrified, to which Dad responded, "With this gang, you never know whether you're coming or going". Always a humorous, loving man, Dad's artificial leg became a source of entertainment to many grandchildren, who would drop small toys inside the side vent hole to see them disappear, only to once again watch them reappear as Papa would remove the leg (imagine the little ones' looks on their faces seeing his stump!).
This past March, I visited the American History Museum in DC and snapped the two photos above - a reminder of Dad and the sacrifice he made for my family - and yours. He never talked about the War, as much as many of us would have liked to have heard his first-hand accounts. There are a few letters saved which he had sent to Mom through those years - always censored first by the US Government prior to their shipping overseas. They spoke of family, devotion, and hope for the end of the War and safe returns.
There's a lot of first-hand accounts of history of WWII that I don't know, but a couple things I do know for certain. One is that the mental wounds of war, now labeled PTSD, were unmentionable in the days of my Dad's service and my growing up. But Dad suffered, mostly in silence, and so did Mom. Another thing I know for certain is that the physical remnants of War remained with my Dad throughout his life - bits of shrapnel emerging through the skin and needing removed surgically, periodically. When the Boston Marathon bombs exploded on those innocent victims, I immediately felt empathy for the survivors, knowing the struggles they will inevitably be dealing with in their future. As do all veterans of war, any war.
I am thankful, especially today. For family, for our country, for service, and for our history, both known and unknown.