Sometimes we dream up stories, sometimes they come to us in the hearfelt words of a friend. In response to my story about Coal Fork, West Virginia, I received an e-mail from a friend who is not only a wonderful writer, but also one of the most hardworking and dedicated women in our chapter of the National League of American Pen Women. She writes our monthly newsletter, often without help, writes book reviews, takes reservations for our luncheons and a million other things…yet with precious little time to spare, she found time to share this lovely story with me…a story that I now share with you.
Perhaps I feel so compelled to share this story because your relatives sound so very much like mine. They came from the coal mining area of Southeastern Ohio. Hard working people with minimal education, they had no time for school because to survive they had to work.
My dad came from a large family and when his mother died in child-birth with baby number 8 or 9, all the young boys – including my dad who was a 7th grader – had to go to work in the mines. There were two girls, they kept the house, cooked the meals and babysat for neighbors. When World War II entered the picture, all the brothers went to war. Some went into the army, some into the navy. Two of those boys never returned and one came home with his hip shot off.
My daddy was one of the lucky ones. He survived. But his nights became nightmares, with the war haunting his dreams -Many are the times he would in the throes of a dream rip mother's bed sheet into shreds. That was scary -after all I was still a child, still innocent as to the ravages of war. I was only 7 years old when Daddy returned home.
Neither Daddy nor any of his brothers ever talked about the war – at least not in the presence of the women folk and children. Then one day I found a medal in my Dad's things. It was a Bronze Star. When I asked him about it, he put me off by saying “Oh, they just give those away to the good guys.” Later I learned from my uncle that daddy had carried wounded men on his back to safety and medical care amid gunfire. He never owned up to any of it, never bragged or boasted. I realize now that he didn't brag because he didn't consider his actions to be heroic actions, he simply felt he was fulfilling his duty as an American Soldier.
Today we have men like my daddy fighting in faraway places, giving up the love and warmth of their family so that we here at home can remain safe. I wish I could remind all of your readers to send small travel sized items and letters of thanks to the American men who are fighting overseas. They make our world a safer place to raise our children and grandchildren. And I think they would feel a lot better about their sacrifices, if they knew how much we all appreciate what they're doing.
I agree Pat, which is why I'm publishing this letter.