Happy Veteran’s Day.
My grandfather was a platoon sergeant in the Army during World War II, and was a combat veteran. He served in the Pacific Theater, and used to regale me with tales of his travels in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, Japan, and other small islands.
This photo ran in his hometown paper; I’m not really sure of the date. I think this may have been taken during his basic training at Fort Lewis, Washington, in 1939.
I always loved this picture of my grandparents. When I see it, my mind starts playing the Andrews Sisters song “Don’t sit under the apple tree…with anyone else but me…”
He was heavyweight boxing champion twice for the 33rd Infantry Division. The family legend is that he knocked out the notorious Rocky Marciano in a match. Rocky was also stationed at Fort Lewis at some point, so it was possible.
My grandfather was very proud of his service, although it weighed on his consciousness for his entire life. He was reticent about talking about combat; it reminded him of the friends he had lost, and all the ugliness he had seen. He was very involved with the American Legion as a civilian, and the reunion celebrations held for his division, and he maintained friendships with his soldier buddies until the time of his death. Although I miss him profoundly every day, the loss is a little more poignant on Veteran’s Day. Of all the health issues that could get an 78 year old, he broke his neck after falling out of bed. He told us before he passed away that on that particular night he’d had a particularly vivid flashback/nightmare of a time when a Japanese soldier jumped into his foxhole. This caused him enough fright that he fell out of bed. I’d never really considered it before, but apparently war can claim casualties many years after it’s ended.