My father was a quiet man. I had known that he was in the war (WWII) in England, but not much beyond that. My father was in aircraft maintenance – bombsights actually. How exciting could that be?
One day, he told me about one job that he and his team had done. It was customary for the maintenance crew to fly with the pilot on the plane’s first trip. I guess the thought was that if you knew you were going to fly in it, you would do a better job on repairing it.
It was a beautiful late spring Tuesday, without a cloud in the sky when they took off. The pilot, being a bit full of himself, performed a number of maneuvers in a futile attempt to make the maintenance crew sick. Those maneuvers took them out over the white cliffs of Dover.
It was then the “normal” became “abnormal”. The plane started taking on anti-aircraft fire. Shells were erupting on every side shaking the craft violently with each near miss.
The pilot, who had been operating without radio, switched it on. Apparently, they had stumbled upon a secret military operation and had been mistaken for a German bomber. Needless to say, they returned to base where the actual flight crew was waiting.
it was June 6, 1944. D-Day.
This was the closest my father ever came to combat, but it underlines this observation.
It takes a lot of people to win a war.
So, on this Veterans’ Day, let us not only remember that army that bravely fought and fights around the world. Let us also remember the other army of men and women that support them, that make their impossible job possible. Finally, let us also remember the third “army” of men, women, and children who pray and wait for their loved ones to return.
With crimson robes
Over all it flows
That catch the light
With colors bright
Lost mists of eternity
Vanished with a dream
Conjured in the depths of mind
Fabricated in tendrils of thought
Captured in tangled snares
Fighting for freedoms won
Standing on the precipice
Adrift in the storm
Cherished hair lock
Caught not found
A passion of thought
Release our anger
Save us from ourselves
What was that!
My heart pounding, I try looking through the pitch dark windows of our family station wagon. Ears straining to hear the slightest sound, I listen for what may have caused my alarm. Sleeping quietly beside me, my brother is oblivious to my distress. Whatever awakened me has apparently spared him. As I try to settle back in my sleeping bag, I remember what landed us here; huddled together, alone in the dark.
Earlier this evening, the whole family was recovering from a wonderful day. We had gone to White Sand. It was like a gigantic beach without the ocean. Afterward we had come back to Cloudcroft, 9000 feet above the gypsum sands below. It was deliciously cool compared to the heat of the desert sand, and after dinner, my brother and I had played until the darkness had enveloped the campsite and it was time for bed.
My eyes had barely closed when an explosion sounded down the hill. Dad dressed hurriedly, and along with the other men in camp, rushed to see what had happened. What had happened was a bear!
The bear came down the mountain nightly to forage in the trash bins. Just last night we watched him from our tent; our flashlights focused on his brown back. Tonight though, he came down the mountain too fast. Unable to stop when he got to the trash bins, he ran full speed into a travel trailer, dumping it on its side. The men in camp set the trailer back on its wheels, freeing the appreciative owners who quickly packed up and left. Dad then set up the car as a bed for “the children”, thinking the tent was no longer safe for us.
So here I am, at the ripe old age of nine, lying here listening to a growl, or wind, or whatever it is. As I peer through the now foggy window, It’s like looking through black coffee; my imagination filling the darkness with things best unknown. There’s a sharp sound, which to my attenuated hearing sounds like a cannon going off. It’s one of the trash lids … I think. The bear has come back to feed! My brother is awake now and whispering, afraid to make any noise that might attract the creature not ten feet from our door.
Finally, after what seemed like days, dawn breaks. I must have dozed off; the bear is nowhere to be found. Getting out of the car, Mark and I are just in time to see my dad hunching over the side of the tent. Pointing out the bear tracks, inches from the canvas, he traces the bear’s trail down to where the travel trailer had once stood, and we realize just how lucky we had been.