Posts Tagged ‘Libya’

Off He Goes into the Wild Blue Yonder

August 1, 2011

This is a personal blog, the most common type .  And today I’m getting really personal.

Ben McMichael, my grandson, who took time out from his going-away party at his parent's home in Cumming to pose for this picture..

The wars America is fighting right now have lost their abstractness. I am a member of a very small percentage of our country’s population, people who have a relative in the armed forces. My really fine (yes, when it comes to my progeny, I am biased) grandson Benjamin McMichael heads for San Antonio, Texas tomorrow to begin his United States Air Force basic training.

Just as I told my step-granddaughter Caitlin Champion, when she joined the U.S. Army, that her life would  never be the same, I know that the same is true for Benjamin, and for anyone who goes into the military.  Life in the barracks is definitely different from being at home with mom and dad, as anyone who has ever been in the service can tell you.  I wasn’t in for very long myself since I was a two-year draftee, but that was long enough to have some understanding of the military experience. It does , to different degrees for different people, toughen one, but it also gives insight into what the term “band of brothers” means.  My late brother Elbert, a World War II draftee, loved the Army. As we were standing in line at a cafeteria one day, we noticed a group of young soldiers in the line talking  and laughing with one another, and Elbert said, “The Army is the world’s biggest fraternity.”

There is a lot fo truth to that, I believe. On most of my trips to see some of the great European cities, places like Venice, Rome, Naples, Isle of Capri, Lucerne, Zürich, Augsburg, I went with some of my Munich, Germany Army buddies.  However, I decided to go to Paris by myself.  But, I wasn’t by myself for long.  When I got on the train, I sat in the compartment with three other young soldiers who I had never seen before in my life. By the time we got to Paris, we were all friends and did most things together. They were really fine young men. We had a great  time. Paris lived up to its party-town reputation.  Every now and then I then I reflect on how the three of them, all in the same unit, accepted me, who was not only not in the same unit, but not even in the same town.  But, we were in the same wonderful fraternity. Of course, people are people, and even fraternity brothers don’t always get along. That’s true anywhere.  However, for me, the good experiences outweighed the bad.

Now, it is my grandson’s turn.  Like those three Airborne guys, Ben is a fine person, always outgoing, friendly and witty, but, underneath his sunny personality there is steel.  He has always possessed a quiet confidence.  But, most of all, and the thing that makes me really proud of him, he is simply a good man. And why wouldn’t he be? His father, mother, and older brother are all good people. Then, there is me. Well, four out of five ain’t bad.

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WWII Thoughts on the 4th of July

July 4, 2011

On this, the most patriotic day of the  year, I reflect on the most patriotic time of my life, World War II.

I was eleven when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The nation immediately united behind  the war effort.  With 14 to 16-million Americans in the armed forces, just  about  everyone had someone  in potential harms way. Not so now. Few have a friend or relative in the  services. A relatively small minority is bearing  the  sacrifice as the rest watch.

My late sister Betty and brother-in-law law Jack Gibson during world War II.

Both my brother Elbert and brother-in-law Jack Gibson were drafted.  Jack, a machine-gunner, was wounded a few days after landing  at  Normandy, and awarded a Purple Heart medal.  My sister Betty made her first trip out of the South when she took trains to Wisconsin to see Jack a few days before he went overseas.

My late brother Elbert in Germany, 1945

Elbert, who was younger than Jack, was drafted near the war’s end. He was in the UK, heading for France when Germany surrendered.  He drove a Jeep for a lieutenant around Germany looking for the lieutenant’s German relatives.  Before he shipped overseas, my mother decided she and 13-year-old me would visit him in Joplin, MO, where he was getting  Signal Corps training.

What an  adventure that was for untraveled me. The railroads had every car that would roll in service. With gasoline rationing, you took a train or bus, especially on  a long  trip. When we boarded the train in Columbus, there was only one seat available. I had no seat from Columbus to Birmingham, sitting in other folk’s seats when they would go to the restroom or to smoke.  We did get seats when we had lunch in the  diner, my first  diner experience. I loved it.

13-year-old me

There  were no hotel rooms available in Joplin, but people in private homes rented rooms to visitors like  us.  My mom and dad did the same  thing, renting out a room to Ft. Benning soldiers and  their wives. One couple had a little girl. She was meaner than any boy I knew, and I couldn’t  hit her becaused she was a girl.  Wanting to keep their room, her parents tried to make it up to me by taking me to a movie with the three of them. It helped.

Keeping everyone involved in the war effort, we were encouraged to buy war  bonds and stamps. Kids like me would buy dime stamps and put them in a book that we could cash in or use toward buying a $25 bond when the book was filled. Folks also saved and took tin cans, old tires and scrap paper to collection centers to be recycled  to make things for the armed forces. Just  about  everyone I knew did it. As a Boy Scout, I remember riding  in the  back of a truck, going door to door to pick up scrap paper people were saving.

Yes, it was a very different time and a very different war. Today, people do respect and support our troops, even though most are war weary and want  us out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.  But, there is definitely not the involvement and  the  sharing of the sacrifice as there was then.