Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You Veterans!

In our guest bedroom (the one we call the boys' room) is an old oval photo of my dad's dad, E.R. Johnson. It was his discharge photo after WW I. He was a Swedish immigrant who landed with his parents in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Gladstone). His family was so poor he left school after the 8th grade to work in a barrel stave factory. He enlisted in WW I not having a clue about the nature of the war and the geography of Europe. He was deployed to the trenches of France where he carried bandoliers of machine gun bullets to the gunners through the trenches and mud. He survived numerous gas attacks and shellings. But he loved France and would regale us (his grandchildren) with stories of life after the war in France and the words he picked up.
But when we would ask him to tell us battle stories, he would shudder and tell us in no uncertain terms how awful war was. Which made it all the harder when my dad went off to WW II in the Army. He too was pretty naive about the geopolitics of WW II and the layout of Europe. He was stationed in Berlin when the orders came to go immediately south to a town called Dachau. There he saw first hand the hell of concentration camps and the horrors of Nazism. He told us all later that at that instant, seeing the corpses piled high and the scarecrow like prisoners clinging to the wires, that this was a morally right war against a hideous evil.
But Dad, too, would later shudder about the terrors of fighting and tanks, of foxholes and bombardments.
These are my two heroes I think about today, not unlike those men and women who serve all over the world today, under arms to make peace.


At 10:28 AM , Blogger Rick said...

I'm with you Don. My grandfather must've been so glad at noon on this day 91 years ago as the war ended.

I have 58 letters he sent home from the front lines, some of which are excerpted here:


Sadly he died before knowing any of his grandchildren, but through his letters I feel I came to know him a little bit.


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