Undecorated Dad

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say "These wounds I had on Crispin’s day."

–Henry V, iv, iii

He considered going over to kill Hitler or Hirohito or somebody, but Uncle Sam had no boots or uniforms anywhere near his size. So they put him in Military Intelligence and sent him to the Utah hinterlands to babysit Italian and German POWs. That’s how he spent those mythic years. Did he have a good war?

(Not a few codgers born between the wars never forgave themselves for missing out on the action, and they became wife-beaters, lushes, onanists. Meanwhile, in certain cowpoke taverns, I’m still expected to hold my manhood cheap for snoring through the Tet Offensive in Miss Wankel’s Health and Personal Hygiene class.)

The Italians were content and well-behaved, except when they stole a crate of toilet paper for no reason. But the pale Germans felt honor-bound to escape and exfiltrate their way through Bryce Canyon to rejoin their Panzer divisions and fight another day, or die of melanoma trying.

One lazy afternoon during a sandstorm Dad was chasing such a loose Kraut. Fritz beaned my parent with a fence post, which left a ten-stitch scar for us few, us happy few, us band of pituitary goons with eyes set sufficiently high off the floor, to admire in later years.

He spun this yarn throughout all the years of our association, under the title, "The Harrowing Saga of How Big Brad Earned His Purple Heart." Mom yelled, "Our friends who came back maimed don’t appreciate your joke."

But he was seven feet tall, after all, and retained full use of all five glorious limbs. While none of his gimpy peers ever dared tell him to shut up, their wives couldn’t hear his tall tale enough times. Till the day he died (in bed, not without company), my old man never stopped dining off his peculiar version of the "defining event of the Greatest Generation."

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