and hopefully not a dollar short. this is a belated memorial day post.
The folks i remember:
My father, who was in for the duration (like everybody else) in WWII, and saw his war from an engine room as a USN machinist's mate. Hot, sweaty, noisy, crap duty, a weird gig for a Georgia farmboy, but he did get to meet my mother while in NYC getting some mechanical training at ConEd.
My stepfather, who signed up before the war broke out because it was a good gig. Three hots and a cot. He knew how to operate heavy equipment, so they gave him a tank and made him a sargeant. He was captured in North Africa, shipped over to Italy with a German field hospital group, and walked north until he was liberated. Lots of weird sad stories from that adventure. Then, back into the tank in the European theater until VE day.
My father-in-law, who spent his war tromping around the Phillippines. Before the war, he had a pretty good little gas station in Butler PA, which he basically had to sell when he was drafted. The thing he was proudest of about his war service was the fact that nobody in his group was killed in combat.
My good friend Put, just passed a week or two ago at age ninety-something, spent his war in tanks in Europe. Took a very interesting over-and-under rifle and shotgun combination off an Austrian civilian, who had just tried to kill him with it. Safety tip - go up against a tank with a hunting piece, and you will likely lose. Put went back to Europe a few years ago, to visit the places he'd fought, and to try to put some demons to rest. Didn't work, he was still prone to waking up with nightmares about the war (70 years later!), but he wrote a good book about it.
My good friend Bob, still here, in his 90's, trained and led a troop of black recruits during the war, then spent some years in Japan as part of the post-war occupation.
My mother-in-law, for that matter, who spent the war years building Corsairs in Akron OH.
Those folks, excepting only Bob and my mother-in-law, are all gone.
I have two brothers-in-law who served during Vietnam. One served in Germany, one in Korea. They lucked out.
One nephew of my step-father, not so lucky, fell into a man-trap full of punji sticks in Vietnam. Messed his legs up, and was prone to weird intermittent undiagnosable fevers for many years after.
All of those folks would almost certainly have preferred to stay home if they could, and they all went. I tip my hat to them, all of them, and remember the ones who have passed with love and respect.