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Remember through the year that they are heroes

The Reporter's Notebook

 


Earlier this week the nation took pause to honor our veterans.

The debt we owe to veterans goes well beyond Nov. 11.

I didn’t come from a military family; however, my father and three of my brothers were in the military: my father in World War I, and my brothers in World War ll.

I am sorry now that I know so little of their service times and experiences. They, like so many, didn’t talk a lot about their experiences, it brought back unpleasant memories.

My father didn’t serve overseas, but my three brothers did, in the thick of it.

My brothers, Richard, David and Robert, had never been 100 miles from Palouse until they were called up. I can only imagine how lonely they must have felt trading their familiar spaces for the uncertainty of war.

I remember the many letters they sent me during the war and recently went through some of them. Do I respect and honor our veterans? You bet I do.

I remember when my brothers went off to serve.

There were the farewells, and the lonely feelings around the house.

A friend of the family was the local telegrapher and handled telegrams that came in. These were read with some foreboding. We had our share of local boys who paid the supreme sacrifice. Word of their deaths spread like wildfire through the town.

My mother got a telegram, and I recall how nervous she was in opening it. Luckily for the family, it was a notice that one of my brothers was coming home on furlough before going overseas. I also recall how proud we were of him.

My brother Richard was in the army, a military escort guard. His first trip overseas was to Northern Africa, where he shepherded captured Italian soldiers back to the United States where they were to be held.

He liked the Italians; they were trustworthy prisoners and didn’t want to fight. Richard said he enjoyed conversations with the Italians because they were interesting.

Later, he was in the push to get to Germany, so he saw a lot of Europe before the war ended.

My brother David was in the Air Force and on the headquarters staff as a clerk, and made the mistake of saying that he could type. A typewriter was his weapon as he traveled the war in the Pacific.

He attended the signing that ended the war with the Japanese.

I have a picture he took of Ernie Pyle’s gravesite.

My brother Robert was in the Navy and served aboard a seaplane tender.

I often wondered what kind of trouble he got into to deserve such an assignment. He had a habit of saying what he felt no matter who was present.

He was at Iwo Jima within a few minutes of the raising of the flag. He later was onboard ship when the kamikaze attacks were being made and saw a number of ships being hit. He was then probably thankful that he was on a small ship and not one of the likely targets.

Late, after the war had ended, my two brothers got together in Tokyo harbor. David had learned where Robert’s ship was and took a barge out to see him. At the time, he was suffering a 30-day stint in the brig aboard ship, but the captain allowed a few hours reprieve so the brothers could meet and talk. Robert, it was said, hadn’t returned on schedule from a pass to go into Tokyo. Later, as a result of his insolence, he didn’t get discharged until six months after the war was over.

So, you might ask if I am among those who honor our veterans. I will let this column speak for itself.

There’s nothing wrong in hating war and being against wars. Ask any veteran, and they will say the same.

So we honor those who served, regardless how they served. They are all heroes, and we should remember this all year long.

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