Monday, November 26, 2007

Wow, the things you learn about people you've known all your life can surprise you.

Had a great visit to the Ozarks. Went to see my Grandfather's two sisters, and that's always wonderful. They are cheerful, lovely women. They're both in their 80s, and are the spiky, sparky sort of women who crop up in my family pretty frequently. They are brilliant cooks and gardeners, and my crochet might approach being a pale shadow of theirs if I practice for about 30 more years.

My great-uncle was a POW during WWII, and I was startled when he brought out his photo the Nazi welcoming committee took of him on the first day at Stalag whatever-it-was. There was a series of numbers above his head, and another 7-digit number on a chalk board hung around his neck on a string. Shocking to see. Handsome young man, looked like a one not to be trifled with. He said the Allied troops gave them back their personal records from the camp files when they were liberated.

He'd been on the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) up north building dams before he was drafted. Incredibly nice, quiet man, he is.

He volunteered to be the gunner for a mission to Germany, and the plane was shot down on that fateful day. I asked him what was going through his mind at the moment the photo was taken, and he said he was wondering when he would get out of there. He didn't mention it, but I know his shoulder was dislocated during a rough landing in the parachute, so he had to be in some degree of pain at that time, as well. He was 20 years old.

I asked how long he was imprisoned there, and he didn't miss a beat as he said "17 months and 7 days."

Greatest generation, indeed. We must take care to remember what our forebears have gone through in service of our country. They are not proud, and they don't go around tooting their own horns, but they deserve our respect and our thanks.


Christina RN LMT said...

What an amazing, humbling story, Phlegm.

What scares me is how disconnected most of today's youth is. They seem to have no clue about history, and the sacrifices their (great)grandparents made.

FHB said...

You know, guys like that were tested by life way before they had to deal with Hitler. Helps explain how they dealt with it all. Great folks.

Anonymous said...

Happy to hear you had a great time.

Greatest generation indeed. I love to hear all the old stories they tell. Makes one think. They really do deserve our thanks and respect. said...

Man, I'd love to see that photo!

Great stuff.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You certainly do tribute to your family. You come from some amazing stock.

phlegmfatale said...

christina - I've thought this over, and I steadfastly believe there are young men and women of the same gritty stock serving our country in Afghanistan and Iraq at this very moment. I think it's part of our DNA.

fhb - yup, great, indeed. We need to learn from their lessons.

lainy - Thanks, babe - I hope you had a lovely holiday, too. Absolutely, we owe them everything. We owe them to make the most of our lives and of our freedoms.

mushy - maybe sometime they'll let me take a copy of it. I was so awed by seeing it that I didn't even think to ask.

barbara - You know, I'll bet if we wake up and recognize it, we're all related to remarkable people who have made the West great. It's in you, too, because all you Canadians had to pull up stakes and leave something behind for something better, too. That's a proud heritage, if you ask me.

Buck said...

They are not proud, and they don't go around tooting their own horns, but they deserve our respect and our thanks.

Disagree on the first, agree emphatically on the others. The Ol' Man and his friends, WWII vets all, were quite proud in their unassuming way. Not the "wear it on your sleeve" kind of pride we see today, but a quiet pride in the fact they answered the call and did what had to be done.

And you're quite right about the men and women currently serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Same sort of stock, and although the stock is in shorter supply these days, it does exist. Thank God.

phlegmfatale said...

buck - of course, you are right - poor choice of words on my part - I meant that they weren't boisterous and showy about their accomplishments. Yup, they and men and women like them are the best of the best, IMHO.

Lin said...

Does your family have an unofficial archivist willing to gather copies of all this amazing history before it falls into disinterested and maybe careless hands? It should, there is a wonderful mosaic of history there which needs to be preserved, not just for your family but for all of us.

Christina RN LMT said...

I did say "most"...

Of course there are quite a few admirable kids out there today (mine included, of course! ;)), but the rest of them...ugh!

Anonymous said...

My father was a radio-gunner on B-17's in the great war. He never talked about it...until I found a steamer trunk in my grandfather's grain bin and forced the lock. What I found inside intrigued me, the unfinished wooden models of a Colt 45 peacemaker, H-O scale railroad cars, period periodicals. At the age of 14, I couldn't fathom why there were these heavy chunks of sharp metal lying in the bottom of the trunk. I grabbed a couple and took them to my father. His explanation was simply...oh, that was some flak that missed my head by 1/4 inch. I dug it out of the bulkhead of the B-17. I completely forgot about it.

SpeakerTweaker said...

Respect and thanks? Hell, guys like that deserve everything we got, short of violating the whole " other gods before me," thing.

Men like him are heroes. I'm so glad that there are still some WWII vets around to remind us.

You seem proud of him, as you should be.

I am.