My father is an extraordinary man. He came of age in the depression, working in any job he could get — from timber camps in Alaska to being a railroad man. In fact, he was working for the railroad when he heard about Pearl Harbor. At the train’s next stop, he got off, found the nearest recruiter and joined the Army.
Dad was a paratrooper, part of the 82nd Airborne. He’s an unassuming man and doesn’t brag, but I saw his war scrap book — the field commendations and promotions. He started as a grunt and ended Captain, promotions made from equal parts death of others and my father’s ability. What must it feel like to be promoted because someone you know, respect, and trust, dies?
My Dad was joined by his brothers in WWII. My Uncle Cal was in the navy and served in the Pacific, and my Uncles Frank and Bob joined the Army, like my Dad. Uncle Frank fought the shortest length of time — he landed in Europe one day and was captured by Germans the next, spending the rest of the war in prison camp.
The brothers all survived the war. My Dad became a cop, a state patrolman, meeting my mother (over 20 years his junior) at a cafe where he used to eat. Uncle Cal continued working for the Navy as a civilian, and Uncle Bob stayed in the Army, stationed in Germany. Uncle Frank also went to work for the government.
We used to visit my Uncle Bob when he retired and moved to Seattle. A sweet, gentle, and loving man who treated my brother and I like his own kids. He died far too young, a victim of heart disease and diabeties.
Uncle Cal was a kick, full of life, with a huge sense of humor (a trait all brothers shared). Generous, kind, and also loving. But he smoked too much and didn’t exercise, both of which eventually took their toll and he died of emphysema.
My father called me earlier today: My Uncle Frank, the quiet one, the baby, just died from a long fight with cancer.
Of this band of brothers, only one remains — my father.