Thursday, March 01, 2007

Family Secrets

I’m still trying to research this a little, and fill in the details, so there will likely be a longer, follow up story in the weeks to come, but I found some information about my family I wanted to share.

My grandfather fought in the Philippines during World War II. This is a fact that not even my father knew until a few years ago, for grandfather never, ever mentioned it. Last summer I brought it up with him wanting to get some stories out of him before he died, but all he would say is that he had seen action.

Talking with my grandmother, this past weekend she told me that when his active duty was done that he was told to stay in for two extra weeks, doing office work, and he would get a nicer benefits package. He refused outright and wanted to be shipped immediately home.

Once he returned home he boarded up his windows and nailed his door shut, afraid that the Japanese would sneak in and take him.

For a year after he returned he would often cry out to his mother that he could never go to heaven. That he was bound for hell for the things he had seen. The things he had done. For he had killed men. He had bombed buildings, murdered innocents. He had seen little children’s arms and legs flying dismembered from the explosions he had caused.

Eventually, she said, they calmed him down and made him understand he had served his country, and the Greater Good and could indeed go to Heaven. But hearing that story, broke my very heart.

Here was a young man, 17 at the time, I believe, from the hills of Tennessee. Seventh grade education, never seeing much beyond the farm he grew up on. Suddenly he is shipped to the wonders of California where he learns how to be a warrior, a soldier, and killer. Then he is shipped to some exotic island to experience what hells I’ll never understand only to again be shipped back and expected to live a normal life.

I may not agree with the politics of our current wars, but my heart goes out to all the men and woman who quite literally put their lives on the line ever single day. I pray God brings them home safe, healthy and able to adjust to normal life again.


JS said...

that was indeed heartbreaking. The mental anguish I hope to never know. Wow... sometimes I get sad that old folks dont share their memories with us that fought in historical wars, but honestly I have never thought that they may not want to ever relive them and that maybe we are selfish to not let those memories die with them.

The boarding up of the house was what shuttered my heart.

CL said...

What an amazing story! It reveals much about the things that make us who we are. Where our baggage comes from or where the mystery behind the mystery is reallt from. The things that makes us who we are, that shape us into ourselves are what are scary. I appreciate these people as well, cause while we all have "junk" we have to deal with. This has to be some of the most difficult. Shalom!

JS said...

i personally cant beleive this post hasnt gotten more comments...

mullinz8 said...

This is an amazing post! Be glad you got it out of your grandpa.

One of the few stories I ever got out of my dad wasn’t about an actual fire fight, thought I’ve got a couple of those, was about the aftermath of an airliner crash.

Dad was supposed to fly with his squad but was pulled out having flied more than anyone else at the time to a relaxing bit of clean up. Little did he know what he was going to be doing. An airliner with maybe 200 people had crashed killing everyone on board. His job was to lift the remains from the crash site to another location for official processing. For almost a day he hopped a 15x15 flat piled with bodies from one location to another. He had to stand there and watch them load people of all ages until the job was done.

It’s the only thing he had ever written about during his tour in Vietnam. He saw some awful things but this one affected him enough to put in on paper. One of the things he added was that someone, knowing he smoked, brought him a pack of smokes that they had found. The conversation was that the person he got them from wouldn’t need them anymore.