I had known Dad was in the Army, but other than that, little was said of his service. In our home, we didn’t discuss the war or my Dad’s role in it.
It wasn’t until I got married that I learned my father was an Army Ranger. That information was passed to me from my father-in-law. Any time my F-I-L meets another vet he asks about his service.
My F-I-L explained that as a Ranger, my dad was a true hero. But I never knew that. My father lived with his military service tucked away into a distant compartment in his mind.
Stories were never shared, photos were never shown. He may have been a hero, but he didn’t want to be. He didn’t want the world to descend into the chaos of the 1940s, but when the time came, Dad enlisted to serve his country.
December of 1996. I was staying with my parents, caring for my mother as she died. One morning as I sat at the breakfast table sipping coffee, my father trudged in and sat. His eyes held pain, but it wasn’t just at the imminent passing of his wife.
Dad started having nightmares about his WWII service the week my mother died. He told me he was one of the few survivors of a battle on Anzio Beach in Italy. The day after the battle had subsided and the smoke had cleared, my father walked the beach leading donkeys. He spend I-don’t-know-how-many hours putting the bodies of dead soldiers on the donkeys and bringing them to an area where they could be shipped home to the states.
We sat together and cried at the horror he lived through. “All my friends were killed.” He told me.
Yet my father, that truly gentle soul, persevered and did his duty. He was a hero, even though he didn’t want to be.
When I think of Veteran’s Day and all those who served our country, my Dad is first in my thoughts. He’s one of the finest men I’ve ever known. I’m grateful for his service to our country and for the gentle, loving way he raised me.
God bless America, and God bless the men and women of the armed services who guard our freedom.