Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Glimpse into the Life of a WWII Veteran


My father volunteered to serve his country in the United States Army when he was just 17 years old.  Like so many of his generation, he rarely talked about his experiences in the war.  Maybe it was painful memories, or that he preferred to keep much of his personal feelings private, or a combination of both.  Anyhow, we have few and sketchy details of his time in WWII.  However, I did manage to discover a few particulars over the years.

Bernard C. Koch entered the service right after high school, and he fought in the Pacific Theater in The Philippines.  He was an Army Sergeant and he received two bronze stars and a purple heart, among other awards.  He was wounded in action and then very sick with malaria while he traveled back to The States on a hospital ship.

Dad & His Mother
My Dad passed away in March of this year.  He was 89 years old, the father of 10 children, 19 grand-children, and 2 (now 3) great grand-children.  With family & friends gathered for the funeral, my Aunt Mary-Lou (Dad’s youngest sister) caught my attention when she began to speak of my father as a young man.  “He wasn’t like this before the war, but when he came home, you could make all the noise and racket around him while he was sleeping, and not disturb him one little bit. But if you touched him, Oh my!  His whole body would jolt and wake with such a start!”

This particularly interested me, because as far back as I can remember, my father would often take a short nap on our living room recliner before dinner, and my mother would send me to wake him when it was time to eat.  Aunt Mary Lou’s story was all too familiar.  I would stand right next to him and loudly call out, “Dad! … DAD! … DAD!” all to no avail.  It would never work, but I’d try anyway.  Then I knew what needed to be done.  I had to gently touch his arm, and then jump back quickly to avoid his flailing arms and legs.  He would wake with a jump in a panic, speedily scanning the living room, “What? … What?  … What’s happening?”  Then calm down when he recognized it was just me.  As far as I know, this continued throughout his entire life.

Notice the arrow pointing to my Dad.  He was carrying a sidearm and thus was not required to salute.        

Aunt Mary Lou’s words really struck me, “He wasn’t like this before the war …”  I had never really thought about this habit of my father’s.  I think I just figured it was a quirk of his personality.  Now I believe it must have been a result of the horrors of combat.”  To some, it may seem like a small thing, but he never got over it.  For 65 plus years the trauma stayed with him, and I wonder if he ever slept peacefully after the war. 

This made me think of all our combat veterans, and the very high price they pay in serving our country.  I wonder about them and what they suffer without their families and friends being able understand their pain.  How they must need our love and support and prayers.  What a debt of gratitude we owe to them.  May the LORD bless and keep our United States Military.

Happy Veterans Day & Many, Many Thanks!

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
~Romans 13:7~

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