Four Men. Boys from Brooklyn. Poor. Smart. Always causing trouble…but managing to get out of it. Best Friends. Brothers, really. Remained close all of their lives. But World War 11 changed that. Nate and Jack were killed in action. Both airmen. Red was seriously wounded, but came home, married and raised a family. He was never the same. And my father, stationed at the Naval Yard in Philadelphia, was unharmed and had a daughter, me, in April of 1945. He missed them the rest of his life. Never really had a close friend again.
A few years ago, I found an old water damaged carton. In it, were the few pictures of my Father I have. And the story of how the war unfolded for him.
Dad was a great letter writer. He made sure his buddies overseas heard from him weekly. On January 11, 1944, he wrote to Nate…a funny letter, light and bright. He did not hear anything until January 22nd, when the letter was returned. It had been opened and stamped “Killed in Action”. It was the beginning of the end of the Foursome. On February 14th, a letter arrived from the Executive Officer of Nate’s Squadron, on behalf of the Commander, detailing Nate’s last day and other information. I can only imagine what it must have been like for my father, a man who rarely showed emotion or affection, to get those letters.
I keep rereading them. My heart aches. I know it is only a bit of what so many people who have lost loved ones in all of our wars must feel. And it has changed me.
“Thank You For Your Service” is inadequate.
But it is the best I have.