Saturday, December 8, 2018

Military Service

As often as I could this week, I tuned in and watched bits of the tributes to former President George H. W. Bush. I was reminded yet again the impact of this greatest generation, and of the diminishing number of those who can claim the title.

As if that weren't enough, this week I also saw coverage of the recognition of  Pearl Harbor Day where a contingent of only twenty survivors were able to attend. I wonder what went through their minds sitting there, knowing what they know firsthand about the horrors of war, knowing they went on to lead full lives while others remained with their sunken battleship in a watery grave.

Since this time last year I've worked on a couple projects involving women who were children on that day that lives in infamy. One wrote in a letter that she remembers that December Sunday when the congregation at church sat hushed in pews. As a nine year old, she had no concept of what the silence meant, only that people cried and that in the following months the fathers and brothers of her friends left home to join the service. Operative word: service. She did her part a year later by being a king in the Christmas pageant. There were no men available. Her mother accomplished her own version of service by writing weekly to those men while they were abroad. Her father served the community left behind by ministering to them from the pulpit and in a few cases, from the gravesides of fallen soldiers. All that comes from chapter two in my biography, Dr. Jane Carswell: Family Physician, Humanitarian, Friend where I quote from her own recollections about growing up in war time.

My current project also involves a lady who was a child during that era, this one thirteen years old at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. Unlike Jane, however, she was so isolated from the rest of the world, she knew nothing. Her whole life from birth until she graduated from high school spread less than a mile on one street filled with a corner grocery, church, school, barber shop, local grill and a drug store with a dinette corner to hang out. What more could a girl of the thirties and forties need! She doesn't remember the Great Depression, although her childhood years coincided with it. Her family sheltered her from hardships with love and food on the table. She doesn't remember gas rationing because they had no car. She doesn't remember food rationing because they had their own beyond what was at the store on the corner. Her own father died in 1939. That she remembered. Every minute detail. Which is probably why she paid no attention to a war waging on the other side of the globe. Her personal war was closer.

When I found the graduating classes for the years from her high school, I pointed out to her the odd list for 1943. Only one boy among more than a dozen girls. We only speculated, but maybe, just maybe, this war reached down into the available young men and pulled them away.

To serve.

We can't say it enough. "Thank you for your service."

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


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