Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

It is a day Americans set aside for somber reflection.

My father was 22 years old when he joined the Army Air Force. His older brothers had already enlisted. By the end of World War II my grandmother had sent all four of her boys to fight. Two were airmen, the other two infantry. All were injured and they rarely spoke the war in mixed company. Once I mustered up the courage and asked my father about the long scar that ran the length of his right arm. He described his plane crash, the hours following and the good folks who took him in on the night of his crash. He didn't crash in battle, he crashed running night flight trials over the dark skies of Mississippi with no moon and no instrumentation to guide him. The people who saved his life were negro sharecroppers who lived in a shack. He spent six months in the hospital in Mississippi.

My father never stopped loving airports and planes. When we were very young he'd take us to the observation deck of the municipal airport in Charleston, SC and let us look at the planes through his big, heavy, Army issue binoculars.
The war memorial at Lumberton Municipal Airport requires one to park and go through the terminal to the landing strip side of the terminal. It has been at the airport for as far back as my memory goes. Tom and Charlie are among those listed on the memorial. Good men who served a good cause.

When my father died I found the newspaper announcement of his transfer to Greenville, Mississippi in his bedside Bible in the New Testament book of St. Matthew. His mother had saved it. It is now folded into my childhood Bible in the same spot. It is the story of the birth of Jesus. A deeply religious woman, Myrtle Rose knelt in prayer by her bed every night before bed. I have imagined her praying for her sons all away at war and wondered at their strength and courage. The scripture she chose to have read at her funeral was from Micah 6:8, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

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