I've said this before...
I'm thankful on
this Veteran's Day for all the men and women who served in our military
during peacetime and war. My uncle Robert was an Army Medic with the
forces who stormed Normandy. I don't know all that he saw, but I know
he gave me a Nazi blanket that he brought home after the war. He never
talked about his service, and I never asked.
Raymond was a career Air Force man, retiring after more than 20 years,
many of them during the Vietnam War. Thankfully he never had to go to
Vietnam. Every time I asked him what his job was he told me he ran the
bowling alley. I still don't know what he did, and I think that if he
told me the truth he'd have to kill me. I'm glad I don't know.
uncle Johnny was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the "day which
will live in infamy" and was on his way to church when the bombs started
dropping. He spent the rest of the war in the Pacific theater.
brings us to my dad. Roscoe Athens Berry joined the Army in late
December 1941, after growing up poor in the northeast Georgia mountain
town of Dahlonega. He was twenty-one years old. While this was where
America's first major gold rush happened, from pictures and handed-down
stories I don't think my Dad saw any of that wealth. He grew up in the
country, raised by self-sufficient parents, Miles and Pearl, who grew
the vegetables and raised the livestock they survived on.
seen pictures of Daddy at Civilian Conservation Corps camps from Rock
Eagle, Georgia to Wilmington, North Carolina. He looks young and
skinny...not malnourished, but like James Taylor says, "soft as smoke
and hard as nails". Life is in front of him and he looks up to the
Then comes the war.
went from Fort Bragg to San Francisco to Guam, the Phillipines,
Guadacanal, Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia. He told me one time that
if he could live anywhere else in the world it would be New Zealand
(Mama used to tell me I might have some relatives there...I don't know).
never talked about his experiences voluntarily. If I asked him
specifics he'd tell me, in short answers, what happened. I asked him
once if he ever saw anyone die. He told me about spending a silent
night in a two-man foxhole only to find his partner dead of a slit
throat when the sun came up the next morning. He wondered why the
Japanese didn't kill him as well.
Dad came out of the
Army with Sergeant's stripes as a part of the 82nd Airborne Division and
stayed in the reserves for some time after that. I used to wear his
dress uniform jacket and hat when I was four or five years old. I don't
know when he got rid of it, but one day it was gone.
my dad, and thousands like him, had not been willing to serve we
wouldn't enjoy the freedom we have today. No wonder they're called the
"greatest generation". They did what they had to do, without
complaining or making a big deal out of their service. It was what we
would call today a strong work ethic. It was what they called doing the
In this age of putrid self-glorification
there are few people who would do what they did without wanting everyone
to notice and praise them.
Daddy taught me about
patriotism. When we'd have parades in my hometown and the flag would
pass by, he'd stand at attention and put his hand over his heart. There
were times I thought it was corny and old-fashioned.
Oh, to stand next to him one more time and salute the flag.
Dad died we draped an American flag on his casket. It's still folded
like it was the day Mr. Matt Haisten gave it to my Mama. My sweetheart
framed it for me and it sits on the bookcase right next to Daddy's
picture in his dress uniform, smiling confidently at the world.
Every day I want to live up to his example.
Every day I miss him. And Uncle Robert, and Uncle Johnny. But mostly him.
I didn't say it often enough when I could have. And should have.
Thank you, Daddy. I love you.