The recent shooting at Fort Hood last week has made this week’s observance of Veteran’s Day especially somber. It’s a vivid reminder of not only how fragile life is and how quickly it can be taken away, but how sometimes we can take our national security for granted. None of us ever expected something like this to happen at one of the most secure places in the nation. It’s easier to accept soldiers being killed in action on foreign soil, than it is for them to killed by one of their own on a U.S. Army base. It’s difficult to comprehend.
My dad was stationed at Camp Hood (as it was known then) in the early 1940s. So on this day, I not only pray for those who lost loved ones at Fort Hood, I also remember my dad, who was a veteran of World War II. I used to love looking at pictures of him in his uniform (and still do) and hear stories of his army days.
Dad was drafted in 1941 and went through basic training at Camp Robinson in Arkansas. He was hoping to put in his two years and get out, but the bombing at Pearl Harbor changed everything.
In 1942, while Dad was stationed at Camp San Luis Obispo in California, he and my mom were married at her uncle’s home in Riverside. The following year, Dad was transferred to Camp Hood. In 1944, he was sent to Europe. Dad was a mess sergeant (with the 635th Tank Destroyers Battalion), so he was behind the front lines, but it was still a dangerous place to be. Dad lost one of his cooks to a landmine on Omaha Beach about two weeks after D-day.
Dad returned to the states after the allied victory in Europe in 1945. His battalion was scheduled to go to the Pacific, but before they could be shipped out, the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan, which ended the war. After Dad was discharged from the army, he and Mom settled in Topeka, Kan. and eventually bought the house where my mom still lives.
As a child, I remember being fascinated by the German gun Dad had brought back from Europe and wondered about the fate of its previous owner. It wasn’t until after Dad died that my brother told me what happened to the bullets. Dad threw them overboard on his voyage back to the states. He knew he would have children someday and didn’t want a potentially dangerous weapon in the house.
Dad remained close to his army buddies up until the time his death in 2004. It was one of those experiences that galvanized a group of young men for a common goal. I’m proud of my dad and his service to our country. I’m also grateful to live in a country where men and women are willing to put their lives on the line for my freedom.
Next time you cross paths with a veteran or someone currently serving in the military, shake his or her hand and thank that person for their service.
If you’re interested in obtaining the military records of a loved one who has passed on, visit:
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