He had volunteered for a second tour of duty because he wanted to help. One day, he was driving a jeep on a mail run, munching on an apple. A German pilot who commandeered an American plane, flew overhead. Witnesses said he made no effort to hide, and the airman riddled him with shots from his right shoulder diagonally to his left leg. They found him with the partly eaten apple still in his hand.
I handed Daddy the nails and asked another question. I couldn't help myself. “In the war, Daddy. Did you know people who died?”Again, he avoided a response.
Recently, I had rummaged through several brown cartons of photographs my father had taken with his Brownie black box camera. I came across a photo from the war. At first I thought I was looking at skeletons in piles, but as I stared closer, I realized these were not skeletons, but emaciated corpses. For the first time, I realized Daddy must have seen this and other gruesome sights like it.
“Come here, Connie. Hold this board while I saw it.” I did my best to get a strong grip on the board and my patience. Why doesn't he answer me?
Meanwhile, as the saw screeched, I remembered what we were told about the spirit of the war effort. In New Orleans, Grandma Agnes and Aunt Leta spent their afternoons at the Red Cross, tirelessly wrapping gauze to make bandages. My mother drew blueprints for fighter planes. Because she was a seamstress and worked with patterns, she was considered highly qualified. Grandpa Edier built the famous Liberty Ships used for shipping and troop transport.
The electric saw came to a halt. Daddy laid it down, removed his goggles, and shook the wood shavings from them.
With the persistence of a ten-year-old, I repeated a second time. ”In the war, Daddy. Did you ever have to kill someone?" I understood soldiers killed an enemy to protect us. That must be okay--unless it was my daddy doing the killing.
He took a long swig from the glass of water at the end of his work table, then leaned against it and answered me. "Yes, I knew people who were killed.”
During the pause that followed, my heart ached, I said nothing.
“But I never shot anyone." Thank God. I knew I wouldn’t have stopped loving him, but I would have been sorry if he had.
A short while later, another question came up. "Why didn’t you have to kill?”
"I worked for a general in the headquarters, so we weren't where people got killed. We handled communications so the officers could make decisions on the their orders and keep track of where the troops were. Because I spoke French, I was an interpreter too.” My chest swelled with pride. What an important job. And he didn't have to kill anyone.
World War II ended in the spring of 1945, and Mom and Dad were married the following September. With victory came a promise: World War II was the war to end all wars.” There would be no more slaughter. I never gave it another thought until one late fall morning in 1965. I was 18 years old when my boyfriend, David Ellison, and I sat next to Cyprus Lake on the then USL campus in Lafayette, Louisiana.
He pulled me to him, kissed my forehead, and stared into my eyes with furrowed brows. "I might have to go to war."
“War…what war?" Silence. “Is there a war?”
"In Vietnam." He stood, paced with hands deep in his pockets, and stared at the ground.
"Where is Vietnam?" Ironically, I had just come from my World Geography class, but most Americans at the time, had no idea
"In the East, near China.” Since there was a name and an actual place, it must be true. There was a war.
"So, the war to end all wars was a lie.” I felt my lips snarl involuntarily as I tried to keep sarcasm at bay.
Yeah, what a joke.”
My mouth agape, my mind reeled. "I don’t want you to go.”
“Well, some guys can get deferments to attend college. But you need a certain grade point average, and I don't have it. We had partied a lot as freshmen, and his grades suffered.
A week later, he volunteered for the U.S. Navy to avoid being on the ground with army troops. In boot camp he scored high on the battery of tests given to newly enlisted men and was assigned to duty on submarines. After a short furlough, he left for war in January, 1966