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 theUtah hinterlands to babysit Italian and German POWs. That'show he spent those mythic years. Did he have a good war?

(Not a few codgers born between the wars never forgave themselvesfor missing out on the action, and they became wife-beaters,lushes, onanists. Meanwhile, in certain cowpoke taverns, I'mstill expected to hold my manhood cheap for snoring throughthe Tet Offensive in Miss Wankel's Health and Personal Hygieneclass.)

The Italians were content and well-behaved, except when theystole a crate of toilet paper for no reason. But the paleGermans felt honor-bound to escape and exfiltrate their waythrough Bryce Canyon to rejoin their Panzer divisions andfight another day, or die of melanoma trying.

One lazy afternoon during a sandstorm Dad was chasing sucha loose Kraut. Fritz beaned my parent with a fence post, whichleft a ten-stitch scar for us few, us happy few, us band ofpituitary 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 BradEarned His Purple Heart." Mom yelled, "Our friendswho came back maimed don't appreciate your joke."

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

Share this story