(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
My grandfather was in the Army for all of 3 days during WWII. He was an artilleryman at the Battle of the Bulge. After those 3 days he was given a medical discharge as he had completely lost his hearing. He came back and worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yards as a tank mechanic.
My uncle served in the Navy in the 50’s before returning to work as a DoD contractor for Sperry, later Unisys, where he joined my father, eventually becoming the company’s manager in charge of all DoD contracts.
My dad, an electrical engineer, was on the original design team for the E2-C AWACS radar at Sperry in 1959. Most of his career was spent developing and testing radars and weapons guidance systems. Many of the battleships, destroyers and carriers out there have been worked on by my father. He was also involved in the development and maintenance of Polaris, Trident and Terrier missile systems while at Sperry/Unisys in Great Neck and Ronkonkoma, and later at Harris PRD/GSSD in Syosset.
My husband enlisted in the Marines at age 17 in 1974. He likes to say he joined as a rebellious act to piss off his parents. They just shook their heads wisely and laughed at him… his father was in the Army and served in Egypt during WWII as an intelligence translator. His mother was in the WAVES and then later joined the Navy, eventually rising to the rank of Lt. Commander, she was one of the Navy’s first female officers. Yes, I call my mother in law “ma’am”. ;-7 Anyway, they both became peace activists in the 1960s.
I served in the USAF from 2/86 to 12/91. I was at Ramstein for most of that. I had a front row seat for the fall of the Berlin Wall and voluntarily extended my tour twice for a year – once to serve in Operations Proven Force/Desert Storm and Provide Comfort/Desert Shield.
However I’ve saved the most interesting story for last.
My Irish great-uncle, Michael J. Scully, served in the US Army during World War II as a reconnaissance scout. He spoke perfect German and had blue eyes and blond hair. While installing a tap on a phone line, he was captured and placed in a German concentration camp. One of the more difficult stories he shared of those times with my uncle (never with his sister or my mother) was how on Saturday night for entertainment purposes, the Nazi guards would release german shepherd and doberman guard dogs on the prisoners, who were forced to climb electrified fences to get away from them.
You know, kinda like THIS:
And yes, that is a bitchslap at our “Commander in Thief” and anybody else out there who thinks this is the way to run an honorable US military.
Yes, Schumer, that also means YOU. Deal with it.
Another story that came out eventually was that my uncle had a good friend who made the mistake of looking over an entrenchment and ended up with his decapitated head falling into my uncle’s lap.
We are fairly sure that we only ended up hearing the half of it. My great-uncle was always very tightlipped about his experiences in World War II, especially around the women. All I knew of the man face-to-face was that he was a gentle and good soul who dearly loved to sing. His favorite song was “Peg O’ My Heart”, which he liked to sing to his wife Peggy. We went as a group to visit him in the VA hospital in Northport, and ended up serenading the entire ward unit with various old songs he liked, which the other vets there enjoyed greatly as they were all of the appropriate WWII service age group.
He knew I had also served, and he’d get a tight, sad little smile on his face if he ever saw me wearing anything that pertained to my Air Force service – part obvious pride, and part something else that, tough cookie as I am, I pray I will never need to know more about.
While in the concentration camp, his appearance and fluency in the language along with his cleverness allowed my great-uncle to eventually convince the Nazis that he was one of them. They released him into their army, the Bundeswehr, where he collected intelligence while waiting for a chance to escape. He finally did so, but had a harder time convincing the Americans that he was legit! Finally the quality and quantity of the intelligence that he had gotten for the United States, along with verification of records, allowed him to be released back into the American Army.
The day my great-uncle was to outprocess at Fort Dix, the call came in to let his next of kin in the South Bronx know which day he might be arriving home. As the day arrived, my grandmother brought her family out into the street, where friends and neighbors joined them. Hours passed where joy and the dread of disappointment traded places constantly. The city street where this gathering congregated was at the bottom of a hill, and eventually my great-uncle appeared at the top, a distant silhouette with the setting sun behind him, trudging along with his dufflebag. A welcoming roar went up from every throat in the crowd – a true hero’s welcome home.
My Great-Uncle was buried with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and full military honors. I read this poem in German at his graveside, with his widow’s blessing.
He was buried with a United States sword and my own personal mead horn.
I hail my kinsman on this day with pride that I am of his blood. His name and the tale of his deeds will never die while I live.
Freya, hören Sie bitte Mich
Ja, Mutter, bitte hört dass Mich
Freya bitte hört Deinen Schwertsänger
Für immer Je Deine Hildebrandt Ich bin
Freya, ein Krieger kommt;
Ja Mutter, ein Held kommt;
Freya, Die Einherjar kommt;
Er kommt schnell jetzt zu Sie
Erfreuen Sie so offen die Tür
Von Deine Süßer Halle Sessrumnir
Macht einen Stuhl vorbereitet
Und lassen Sie Walküren Bier bringen!
Für den liebsten Preis
Haben Der bös Freiheitsgelt,
Dieser Krieger damit Geldstrafe,
Zu Lieben, gegeben.
Rot waren die deutschen Steine!
Ja der bös Freiheitsgelt,
das Blut von Herzen, Das dieser Frauenwehr
Den Dieser Kindwehr gegeben hat
Wir werden nie Diese Liebe
Und dieses Leben vergessen.
Ich danke Sie, die schönste Mutter Freya
Immer Je Deine Hildebrandt Ich bin
Freya, please hear me
Yes, Mother, please hear me
Freya please hear the Sword-Singer
For ever Thy Battle-Sword am I
Freya, a Warrior comes
Yes Mother, a Hero comes
Freya, One Who Fights Alone comes
He comes quickly now to Thee
So please open the door
Of Thy Sweet Hall of Many Seats
Make a chair ready
And let Valkyries bring ale!
For the dearest price,
The wicked Freedom-Gold,
This Warrior so fine
To Love has given.
Red were the German stones!
Yes, the wicked Freedom-Gold,
Heart’s blood this woman-guardian
This child-guardian has given
We will never forget
This love and this life.
I thank Thee, most beautiful Mother Freya
Ever Thy Battle-Sword am I.
Guide them well… don’t throw their lives away… BRING THEM HOME NOW!
…of the cemetery with the thought bubbles filled with “I was gay” over about one tenth of the headstones.
–A GLBT veteran