I am re-posting this in honor of Veteran’s Day and my Dad’s service to this country!
They came into my possession after my mom and dad had both passed away, and had been sitting on my desk for almost 2 years. I sat down, took them out of their ivory-colored, faded post-marked envelopes and gently opened each one. The sight of his handwriting pulled on my heart and the words on the pages told his story, thereby revealing some facets of him I had never known, yet others I had experienced and now understood with clarity.
The earliest letters dated 1942 and revealed a homesick young man learning the ropes of his responsibilities and duties, with the hope of remaining stateside during World War II. He included detailed descriptions of his life on base and sad commentaries about pilots he had been training who crashed their planes. However, the underlying theme was his love and care for his younger siblings and parents back home. In one of his first letters he stated, “I know more than ever that a fellow never appreciates a home or anything as he should until he has to leave and can’t get leave when he wants to.”
The fifth oldest of twelve children, he often wrote about sending major portions of his pay check home. With force he stated his next check was to be used for the little girls snow suits or clothing items they might need. When he learned he wouldn’t be home for Christmas in ’42, he wrote, “I’m also writing Lois (his older sister) and going to have her send you that money for Christmas presents, and by God don’t use it for anything else. Cause I want all of you that are home to have some kind of present from me. I’m also going to have her get the dolls for the kids out of the money that she has of mine.” He asked only for underwear and warm socks for himself that year.
At one point he revealed his deep concern for his little sisters who had contracted the measles. He scolded his mom for not writing, while at the same time expressed understanding of how busy she must be. The following letter found him apologizing and admitting his anger was born out of his deep concern for his “little girls”.
In later letters he often mentioned his desire to come home on furlough, his longing to see them (especially his little sisters), his love for each one, and his concern for his three brothers also serving in the war. He wrote to all three regularly and expected replies from them. If he hadn’t heard from them in quite some time his letter carried a fearful tone to it. He noted that one brother had written trying to let him know where he was stationed, but the information had been scribbled over and was not legible. The military hadn’t allowed his brother to disclose to his family his overseas location.
While awaiting orders of where he would be stationed permanently, he said, “And don’t worry about me cause no matter where I go I’ll be ok.” When at last he received orders, he found he would be stationed stateside as a flight instructor for the B-24 bombers heading to Germany.
While reading through these “treasures”, the core values of my dad’s heart rose from the pages like mountain peaks on a clear day. Deep love for his family, expressed through his yearning to be home with them, and his continual commitment to sacrificially provide monetarily, were his top priorities throughout the entire tenure of his three-year service. His commitment to serve and do his job thoroughly and with excellence poured from the now-yellowed pages.
Once finished I returned the letters to their envelopes and found myself with strong feelings of deep respect and honor for this devoted young man who later became my father. I considered how my siblings and I each have some resemblance of him in our physical features, and how my exposure to his letters now revealed how deeply he had shaped the features of our hearts to carry the values he had lived!
When he was a young man writing home to his mom and family, he never would have dreamed that 67 years later, his words would reveal to me the core values of his life and that his life, lived by those values, impacted my life and the lives of my children and grandchildren! I am grateful to have been given the treasure of these letters, but more importantly, to have received the treasure of his life!