Friday, May 22, 2009

G.I. Joe

Monday will be Memorial Day. My daddy served in WWII as a paratrooper with the 187th. Daddy didn't volunteer like so many young men of the time, but instead was drafted. He wasn't a coward, but he didn't want to go to war.

Daddy didn't talk a lot about the war except when he was in the company of others who had been in it as well. He wrote a memoir of his experiences while in the Philippines and he gave it to me to read only once. Once was enough and I understood his reluctance to discuss it after reading his words.

Politicians and Hollywood paint an unrealistic portrait of war. For the men in the middle of it, glory doesn't really exist. Only dirt, horror and the need to survive. Some men can survive it physically, but never heal emotionally. My daddy was one of these men. What he was ordered to do and what he did changed him forever. He and so many like him began to drink during the war to escape. They continued to drink even after returning to the states to escape the dreams and nightmares that didn't stop.

Daddy received a Purple Heart for being wounded. That scar healed and he drew a small pension from the United States government for that scar until the day he died. But for the emotional wounds and the scars that would never heal, he received nothing.

The manuscript that he wrote disappeared. After Daddy died, it was not among his papers. I think he destroyed it because it was just to painful to keep. Maybe he thought by burning it, the memories would be burned out as well. Sadly, those demons chased him until his dying day.

When I see young people getting ready to be shipped out, I think of my daddy. I pray for their safe return, but I also pray that the same person will return and not one tormented by memories that cannot be burned away.

I want to say thank you to my daddy and all the men who have served our country and us. The price they paid for freedom is untenable and a price tag cannot be placed on it. Some gave their lives, others their innocence. For some it was a limb, others their souls. None were spared. War is an ugly business that needs to be avoided at all costs because the U.S. just doesn't have the money it would take to repay the debt.