Monday, August 10, 2015

Crumbs from Home

“Weren’t you a pilot in World War II, sir?”
The wise old man squeezed a quarter of a lemon into his tall iced tea at the Mexican place where we were dipping into delicious Guacamole Mexicana and replied, “50 missions out of Italy in a B-17.”
“That was a lot of missions, sir. Did your plane get shot up and all?”
“Oh, yes, Dan. Flak, you know. I made three belly landings and feathered a lot of engines. One time I forgot to turn on the de-icer and that almost spelled our doom at my own careless hands. The oldest dude on my crew was 23. We were all just kids doing OJT.”
“Does that stand for on-the-job-training?”
“You got it. Oh, we had fast track training down in Texas, but we flew those crates by the seat of our pants. The B-17 was quite an airplane…a real airplane with wires and pulleys. It took a lot of strength just to get those ships off the ground.”
“Did you feel that people back home were supporting the war effort?”
“Didn’t think about that much. I was sending a lot of my pay back to the farm. My dad had died and Mother needed the support. She sent me cookies and such, but usually they were just a box of crumbs by the time they got to me. I shared a lot of crumbs in Italy. It was the thought that counted. In her letters and the letters I got from a special girl and an elderly uncle, they always wanted news of the war. There was a lot of interest.”
“Were your letters to them censored?”
“Heck, Dan, I never said anything about what I was doing. I would just report on the weather and tell little stories about my crew members, funny ones, you know. One thing we all had in common was our faith. When I would receive a box of crumbs, I would think of Jesse sending David with goodies to the front lines against the Philistines. In exchange for the cheeses and grain and bread he sent, he wanted David to bring news of how his brothers were doing on the front lines. Same situation as we were in, you know. They sent us goodies hoping for news from the war. And, we were facing our own kind of Goliath. Our sling was the B-17 and our river rocks were our bombs. We killed the giant and cut his head off.”
“Did you fly airplanes after the war?”
“No, Dan, I had enough altitude to do me. I worked in a rock quarry in Missouri, driving and excavator and dump trucks. I liked being close to the ground. I married one of the girls who had written me so faithfully and we built a two-bedroom, one-bath home in the mountains. My life turned out really well…for a while at least.”
“I appreciate your service, sir. Want some more guacamole?”

“No, thanks. I did not know what else to do, son.”

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