Editor’s note: This was submitted by Marion Ostrom, whose dad wrote this column originally published in The Signal in November 1998. He passed away in 2001.
Some people think that veterans live in the past. Maybe so, but it was three years of my life that I will never forget. It’s been fifty some years, but I can remember everything that happened to me. I am a veteran and proud of it.
It was a period of adventure with the training camp, learning to live with men from all parts of the country with different accents, making new friends, the boat ride, and seeing other countries and people with different customs and languages. In fact, I had an all-expense paid tour of Europe courtesy of the U. S. Government.
Then came the reality that I was in a war and some person who I might have been friends with at another time was in a different uniform and was trying to kill me. It was a period of anxiety with being shot at, the bombs, the strafing, shelling, and the noise and not knowing where or when to expect it and wondering if there will be a tomorrow. It was a period of madness losing friends that you had lived with and trained with. War isn’t like the movies.
Everything doesn’t stop while you say goodbye to a dying buddy. They are with you one day and the next they are no longer around. But, I remember them and the loss when some men just can’t take it anymore and have to be sent back to the rear. That is why I belong to the Memorial Day and Veterans Memorial Committees.
It was a period of misery being cold and wet and a lot of times without proper meals and missing things like a hot dog, a hamburger or an ice cream cone.
It was a period of awe seeing death and destruction, towns and cities in ruins, hungry refugees wandering around and wondering where to go, and the disbelief in seeing the concentration camps and wondering how some people could do that to other people.
It was a period of patriotism. We had been attacked and the people united and they respected the GIs. From the mail, we learned of the sacrifices of the people back home. Gas, tires, some food and other items were rationed so they could be sent to us. Women gave up silks and nylons so they could be made into parachutes. People were recycling, carpooling and not taking many trips to save gas. They were also planting victory gardens for food.
It was a period of loneliness. When you had a chance to rest, mostly in the evening, you thought about your family and missed them. There were a lot of patriotic songs at the time and when you got a chance to hear a radio or see a USO show the two most popular songs with the GIs were “When Day is Done” and “I’ll Be Seeing You” because they were about being away from your loved ones.
It was a sense of pride and fulfillment because we had accomplished what we had set out to do and that was to liberate some countries and people and to survive. I was only hurt once, but I was thankful because it could have been worse.
I came away with a new perspective on life and planned to enjoy the rest of my life, my family and my friends. –Chuck Clark