Fitting

Dec. 8th, 2011 11:06 am
ar_wahan: (Default)
Today is my father's birthday. A few moments ago, I found his obituary from The Oregonian. (An old clipping randomly mixed in with other clippings of my mother's, not one on line.)

Thank you, Dad.
ar_wahan: (Default)
I posted this letter a year ago, but some of you are new. And in any case, his comments deserve repeating.

I received this letter from my uncle, quite unexpectedly, a year or so ago. I believe the "shrine" my Dad refers to is the helmet on top of a gun. Wasn't sure what he meant at the time I first posted this. E.T.O is European Theater of Operations.

March 29, 1945

Spring is coming to the E.T.O. and some of us Etousans have stopped digging long enough to appreciate the beauty of the landscape that we are so industrially changing. Last night was a lovely night. The stars were so clear and a quarter moon softened the shadows.

The other day I went for a walk in a nearby woods - everything was so peaceful-- for a while. The sound of the little stream - playing appropriate background music to a chorus of birds - was enough to send my thoughts back to the picnics near Scappoose. A deer was startled by my approach and splashed across the stream to the safety of the shadows on the other side. The trees have tender green buds now and soon the woods will be green. Some flowers are blooming now. The beauty of spring is soon to be with us.

The trees shook and dead leaves fell as a nearby battery fired. The woods were German woods after all and my thoughts were back to the E.T.O. The grandparents of the German "soldaten" had erected a shrine to the Virgin Mary in these cool woods; their grandchildren had erected a shrine in a bullet-riddled Yank helmet nearby. And our artillery was paying a noisy tribute to that shrine.

Sometimes I get so angry at civilians who complain of lack of cigarettes, liquor, and other "luxury" items. The price of this war is not paid for in dollars and cents. The price is broken lives and lives that no longer exist.

Not so long ago, I came upon one of the boys who had paid the price of his life. He was just a kid and looked as if he were asleep in his slit trench. A Jerry mortar had burst nearby and the kid never knew what hit him. A college alumni paper was by his hole. But the G.I. Bill of Rights won't pay for his sacrifice.

We artillerymen don't always see the excitement, the flash and sound of close combat but we do see the smoking ruins of war, the dead soldiers, the knocked out tanks and planes falling in flames. And they leave a deep impression.

But the worst impression is the one caused by the papers that tell of the people worrying about petty little things like cigarettes. We can't ever replace lives with bonds or stamps. But we can honor the dead with more respect for the living and the unborn. If Christians would only be Christians and stop making shrines out of stone and wood; if people would only make a shrine out of living.

The papers say that we should give until it hurts but giving should never hurt - if we can give, we should be filled with joy at being able to give.

I don't want this letter to sound like a sermon but I had to get a weight off my chest.

P.F.C. Philip M. Gray

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