Wednesday, April 25, 2012

After the War

I was a young child at the end of World War II, so I remember men who were said to be “shell shocked” walking around town speaking gibberish and gesturing oddly. I learned right away from Mother that these men were to be venerated and not thought of as strange. We were absolutely not to mock them or even show the least amusement at their antics. “Because of them, you remain free,” was the message. I remember the big parade of heroes marching proudly, with smiles of relief on their faces, and ecstatic adults cheering and waving flags. Someone gave me a little flag and I kept it in my room for ages. I think I still had it when I went into the service myself. I remember Mother showing me the new Franklin Roosevelt dime. I was six and it had just been released, a year after that long-serving president died. I remember air shows and demonstrations of flame throwers and pill boxes at the fairgrounds. I remember brightened spirits and an aura of optimism. The dark days were over. I remember the housing boom. My step-father was a carpenter and there was plenty of work for him. He had been a Sea Bee during the war and it must have been a joy to be back home prospering after years of sacrifice. Young veterans were working and buying their two-bedroom, one bath houses, some even with a one-car carport. In fact, Pop built us a house like that in a new neighborhood. Even though my brother and I shared a room and there was certainly no air conditioning, we thought it was a mansion. Mother convinced Pop to pour a concrete slab for a front porch so we could sit out there summer nights and talk to neighbors who were attracted to our presence (and our metal lawn chairs). I remember playing many games of fling the statue, leap frog and mother-may-I in the front yard. I also remember unorthodox, made-up games and other entertainments designed to amuse our parents and neighbors. It seemed laughter came much more easily after the war. There were a few veterans in our neighborhood who didn’t laugh much, but you could tell they were glad to be home. Then I remember the outbreak in Korea. We prayed for “our boys overseas” in church every time we gathered. Some who had served in World War II were called upon again and some from our community gave the last full measure. One of these was a young person from our church named Bobby. I remember when his mother got word from the stranger in uniform that drove up to her house in a brown vehicle. She collapsed at the news. Days later a banner with a star appeared in their front window. The word was he had stepped on a land mine. There was a lot of that in Korea. I’ve been thinking about the importance of gratitude lately. How grateful we should be for those who gave up so much, some of them life itself, for a future of peace and prosperity!

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