Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Corporal Charles E Beckwith.
57mm Anti-tank gunner;
405th Anti-tank Company;
102nd Infantry Division (the Ozarks);
serving in the 9th Army during WWII.
On September 11, 1944, his unit, 'The Ozarks' left quietly in the night, around midnight. Gliding silently and in 'black-out' conditions - past the Statute of Liberty and out of the NY Harbor to begin the journey across the Atlantic.
A convoy of forty-six ships of all types zig-zagged across the Atlantic. Escorted by the Navy to help protect against German submarines, which were sighted at one point on the 12 day trip to Cherbourg, France.
My Dad endured weeks & months of rain, snow, artillary, forests, hedgerows, more artillary, more rain, floods, and battle after battle after battle.
From France, into Belgium, and across Germany.
Crossing the flooding Roer, the Rhine, and on to the Elbe.
They were headed on to Berlin when Eisenhower ordered the Ninth Army back to the Elbe - to allow Russia to take Berlin. This act may have saved his life since 100,000 Russians lost their lives in Berlin.
About 10 days ago we toured Union Central Station in Kansas City. There we met a WWII Vet while looking at old pictures of the train Station filled with WWII soldiers departing & returning from the war. He said he had been a paratrooper - landing behind the enemy lines. He started to tell us about his 'buddies' . . . he broke down and cried instead. He said "I thought I could tell this, but I can't".
My Dad has said: "After heavy shelling and fighting we would call out to each other on down the line – from foxhole to foxhole; "Are you OK?" "Yes!" "Are you OK? We covered each other's back. We depended on our buddies to help cover us." And then he tears up and he can't tell the rest of the story either.
Those that died gave away all their tomorrows that we and others might have freedom and life.
Those that lived also lost many of their tomorrows coping with the memories and faces they could not and can not forget.
We will never understand or ever know the sacrifices our soldiers have endured for our or someone else's freedom.
I think we could learn from the checking on each other 'on down the line' - from our foxhole (where ever or whatever that might be) to the next. "Are you OK?" "Are you OK?" "Do you need help over there?"
Wouldn't it be great if we treated each other like those 'buddies' and took the job of 'covering each other's backs' as seriously?
If we really cared about each other?
Each other? That's reciprocal, you know?
If we would be like those "band of brothers"?
Many thanks to: my Uncle Bob for his service in the Pacific.
Uncle Don and Alton Macy for their service in WWII.
Uncle Carroll for his service as a WWII medic in Europe - in the middle of the Battle of the Bulge,
To Joe Crapo for his service in Korea.
To Lee Dunn, a Navy SeaBee in Viet Nam.
And to many - too many - of my high school classmates for their service during Viet Nam.
Thanks for being the best Dad ever.
Thanks for the lessons you've taught me and are still teaching me.