Veterans Day always brings old memories that have been with me for many years. The longest and bloodiest battle of World War II was not the Battle of the Bulge or Iwo Jima; it was the last battle of the war, Okinawa, and I have a photo of my father on Okinawa the day the island was declared secured. My father was not a part of my life before the War, but I wrote to him on a regular basis. The photo shows a 38-year-old man who weighed less than 100 pounds.
Another memory was when I got my orders home from Korea. When you received those orders you were “KMAGYOYO” to all of the guys who were left. “KAMAGYOYO” said to all hands, “Kiss My (expletive) George You’re On Your Own.”
My best memory was when my youngest son returned from Iraq.
My most touching memory goes back to my youth in Geneva, N.Y. in the 1930s and 1940s. There was a group of older homeless men known as the “Donkey Gang.” My uncle was the manager of a liquor store, and one of them swept and mopped the store every morning and was rewarded with a pint of wine and a modest money reward. Another one of the men did the same for a local soda fountain, and I assume the others had similar jobs. I will not use names as some of these men were from prominent families.
At least one of the men was a World War I veteran. A very well-known and successful Geneva businessman would very quietly arrange for this man to be picked up, cleaned up, and fitted for a new suit and accessories and would accompany him to reunions of their WWI outfit. I believe my uncle was one of only a handful of people who were aware of this happening.
I lost my kid brother on April 3 of this year. Thanks to Agent Orange, he lived a life of hell for 43 years after his service in Vietnam.
My Dad and I bonded and remained very close until his death. I am so glad he was able to enjoy his only three grandchildren.