Anyone who has read my posts about my dad, know that he was remarkable. You also know that I loved and revered him incredibly. Some know that after 4 years I'm still struggling with his death. By the time he died, he was still my father, but he was also my buddy, and at times, especially at the end of his life, he was my child. So I lost 3 persons in one that day.
Part of the WWII monument
Today I've read several posts about independence and freedom. Great, thought-provoking, inspiring posts. I wanted to write something in honor of Dad and all those who fought and continue to fight for our freedom.
I got down the scrapbook I made him for his 80th birthday. I took all the articles, pictures, letters, ration book, etc, that mom had kept. She had put a lot of them in the old-fashioned sticky scrapbook and the newspapers were almost 'unstickable'. But my patient husband unstuck them. Then I put them on acid free paper protected with special covers. I wrote captions and explanations. It took me a LONG time, but the look on his face was worth every minute. Now I'm sitting here looking at pg.19 from LIFE, Vol. 18 No. 2, January 8, 1945--(THE ORIGINAL ONE).
The headline is:
AMERICANS BATTLE THE GERMAN BIG PUSH
GIs AND GENERALS FOUGHT HEROICALLY TO STEM ENEMY RUSH
BY CHARLES CHRISTIAN WERTENBAKER
(It's all in caps.)
I read the article and sit, humbled once again by the sacrifice of many.
This scrapbook has not gotten 'old' to me. I still feel utter awe when I peruse its pages. The scrapbook is huge. It has mom's history in there too. The original telegrams are there: Well the "Missing in Action" one isn't ---we had that framed (copies were made) and each of us kids have a framed picture of Dad and 5 other guys right after they were released from the German Prison Camp. Underneath is the telegram which says
UNION 1934 JAN 11 PM 9 19
THE SECRETARY OF WAR DESIRE ME TO EXPRESS HIS DEEP REGRET THAT YOUR HUSBAND SERGEANT ROY M HILLIARD HAS BEEN REPORTED MISSING IN ACTION SINCE SIXTEEN DECEMBER IN GERMANY IF FURTHER DETAILS OR OTHER INFORMATION ARE RECEIVED YOU WILL BE PROMPTLY NOTIFIED=
DUNLOP ACTING THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
In the scrapbook are the next two mom received:
UNION (The date is obscured)
REPORT JUST RECEIVED THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS STATES THAT YOUR HUSBAND SERGEANT ROY M HILLIARD IS A PRISONER OF WAR OF THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT LETTER OF INFORMATION FOLLOWS FROM PROVOST MARSHAL GENERAL=
J A ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL.
UNION 1945 APR 27 PM 1 49
THE CHIEF OF STAFF DIRECTS ME TO INFORM YOU YOUR HUSBAND SERGENT ROY ME HILLIARD IS BEING RETURNED TO THE UNITED STATES WITHIN THE NEAR FUTURE AND WILL BE GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU UPON ARRIVAL =
J A ULIO THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
In one of my lit classes in college (when I went back at age 39), we had to read 5 books. Then we were to choose one on which to do a project. It was a small class and we could work in groups. But the rest of the students were 18 -20. So I went solo. I took pity on them and agreed to do Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. They didn't understand it. I did. My dad had lived that war and POW experience. Well, guess what my project was? My dad!
My nephew had opened the door by asking him questions.
Then he was contacted by someone from his unit and found out that they met every year. He went to his first reunion and saw his right gunner, Smitty. They had been separated at the initial interrogation camp and Dad didn't know if he had survived. Forty years later they hugged.
My point? Dad was talking about the whole experience unlike a lot of men. So I set up a question/answer interview and rehearsed it with Dad. I had notes and knew when to get him back on track. We had his box of memorabilia and medals and the telegrams. He was awesome. You could have heard a pin drop. One girl had to have him repeat that he went 5 days in a boxcar without food or water---she was stunned and sat there with tears in her eyes.
I had Dad come and talk to my 7th graders and even the antsy ones sat still. He was a great people person and had a great voice for sermons and such, so he could hold his own with any audience even squirrelly adolescents.
Oh the stories he told! I will tell more some time.
For now I will leave you with an excerpt from the Acknowledgements page of HEALING THE CHILD WARRIOR by RICHARD PETERSON, PhD. This is a true account of a POW who became a psychologist. Dad said Peterson told the story better than anything he had ever read. Unfortunately the book is out of print. I 'guard' this copy!
"This story is true. In December of 1944 thousands of boys like me fought the largest land battle of history. Many, including me, became prisoners of war, thrust into situations for which no one could have prepared us. That most survived is a gift from God and a tribute to the spirit of man." R.Peterson
From the Foreword:"Consider just one lasting minor effect of confinement in a POW camp: years after liberation a former POW is incapable of seeing food wasted without reaction. He squirrels away in the refrigerator left-over bits of meals; an annoying quirk but easily explained. Not so easily understood is his grim determination that his young children eat every scrap of food served them . . I know, in my own case it took me a long time to understand and deal with this particular effect of captivity."
Oliver B. Patton Brigadier General, US Army, Retired
My dad didn't force us to eat every bite, but he didn't like food wasted. We DID eat left-overs without complaining---money was tight anyways, so mom fixed casseroles that stretched. He DID gain all his weight back and vowed never to be hungry again. Thus he ended up battling weight problems. He was 300 lbs at 6ft 3 in when he got sick at age 83. Too heavy. But not hungry.
First: I urge you to record your family history.
Second: If you ever have a chance to talk to a vet who wants to talk, do so, and LISTEN.
Three: If you see someone in uniform, thank them.
Fourth: Be sure to say a prayer for all those out there fighting for freedom right now.
Disclaimer: This is one tired English teacher who is not going to agonize over any mistakes I made and mess with Design/Blogger/Dashboard/Edit the usual five times to get this right. I've got a big day tomorrow grocery shopping, setting up the place at the lake, watching the fireworks with my husband and son and his family in our boats anchored with about 150 other boats off the Big Island on Seneca Lake, Senecaville, Ohio, and then keeping all 4 grandkids over night.
Happy 4th of July and Blessings to all who stopped by. I'm headed for the lake!