My father was born in 1922 in the coal mining country of eastern Pennsylvania. His father, a WWI veteran, was a miner. I remember hearing the stories of how he worried about his father when he went to work every day. The fear that everyone felt when they’d hear the alarm bell at the mine go off because something had happened. When he grew older, my father also worked in the coal mines. When WWII began, my father was a young man. He was eager to enlist in the U.S. Army and he did. For the next four years of his life, he fought for this country that he loved. He saw horrible, unspeakable things, suffered tragedy and was wounded. During the course of WWII, my father was shot, knifed, hit by shrapnel,in a plane crash and ripped a flag off the top of a German tank as it rolled through town. He was in two explosions, one of which caused him temporary blindness and some permanent hearing loss. He used to tell us that his rations contained a little bar of soap. He used to tell himself that by the time he used up that bar of soap, the war would be over and they all could go home. That didn’t happen of course, but it was one of the psychological tricks he played on himself to help him get through.
When the war ended and he was finally able to come home, I know he had a very difficult time. He suffered from combat fatigue for a while with nightmares and depression. How could you not, after going through such a horrific event and witnessing so much. His best friend was shot in the same battle in which my father was injured.. He watched his best friend die and he couldn’t do anything to save him. Those things stay with you.
He was awarded a Purple Heart with four clusters, a Bronze Star, Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
My dad married a much younger woman when he married my Mom and so my sister and I were born later in his life. He was a story teller, a singer and had a great sense of humor. He attended college after WWII and became an Optician. He went on to start his own Optical business and was a practicing Optician until he retired.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease just before retiring. The doctors felt it was due to the head trauma he’d suffered in WWII (the plane crash and a concussion during the crossing of the Rhine). By his late 70’s, his Parkinson’s had grown very debilitating and he had to be placed in a care facility. He suffered from dementia, which is a side effect from the medication many Parkinson’s patients have to take. He always knew who I was though. He passed away when he was 81. He had contracted pneumonia and was in the hospital. They had done everything they could and were trying to keep him comfortable. He was in a semi-coma the last time I saw him in the hospital. He was struggling and I knew he was uncomfortable and may have not realized what was going on. I took his hand & said, “Daddy, I’m here.” He calmed a little bit. I tried talking to him a little bit. He didn’t know that I had given birth to his grandson six months before, even though I had told him, I don’t think it registered. Wanting to do something for him to try and calm him or reassure him, all I could think of was one of the many songs he used to sing to me when I was a little girl. So I started to sing it. He calmed right down and I swear I saw a bit of a smile.
Little Sir Echo, how do you do? Hello! (Hello!) Hello! (Hello!)
Little Sir Echo, we’ll answer you Hello! (Hello!) Hello! (Hello!)
Hello! (Hello!) Hello! (Hello!)
Won’t you come over and play? (and play)
You’re a nice little fellow I know by your voice
But you’re always so far away (away)
I wasn’t there when my Dad passed away. My Mom and sister were, but I will always regret not being there. I know that he is with the Lord now and is no longer suffering.
On Veteran’s Day, I remember my father who gave so much for the country that he loved. He fought alongside his fellow countrymen, to preserve our freedom. The United States of America has a rich history and I am so proud that my own father is woven into the
tapestry of it’s story. ~~Sister Patriot
*Little Sir Echo lyrics by Laura R. Smith 1917