Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

You Have Voice Mail

Veterans, Family, Tosa Personalities, Strange But True

My computers speak to me.

If I receive voice mail a chipper female voice announces:  You have voice mail.

The trouble is if I don't immediately retrieve the message it sometimes gets lost in the shuffle before I get around to answering it. 

Too be sure I receive some interesting voice mail from time to time - including stuff about this venue.  Why these folks call me instead of simply commenting on line is an anomaly I haven't figured-out.  But I digress.

With a recent call I was reminded of how small my world has become as a result of this whim of a blog.

But before I get to that I first I want to talk about my favorite veteran.  I've been spending more time with this aging vet - mostly doctor visits and such.  With Memorial Day and the anniversary of D-Day directly around the corner and the reminder of my shrinking world - he's been on my mind.

Does anybody recognize this guy?

That's my dad.  At least I'm reasonably sure it is.

If it's not - it would be his twin - who happened to serve in the same outfit on the same dates in the same location in Belgium during the same war.

I've been doing some continuing research on dad's arrival on the Normandy beachhead and movements through northern France until September 6th, 1944. And that is how I came across this photograph in the archives of the Ninth Infantry Division.  Again.

Again you say? 

Yes.  As a youngster dad had a yearbook of sorts.  This falling-apart at the seams book was a chronology of the history of his unit.  During WWII the 9th Division distinguished itself in campaigns from North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Northern Europe.

Paging through that dog-eared book I encountered this very same photograph.

More than once I asked dad - Is that you?

And in a circumspect tone he would reply - Maybe so - but might be my twin.

If it is dad it would be the only combat photograph of him that I am aware-of.  All of the other photos are of an identical, skinny 19 or 20 year-old, taken stateside and after the war.

It is nothing short of remarkable that dad is still among the living.  Not only has he lived to a ripe old age but he entered adulthood as a combat infantryman who was assigned as a replacement to an outfit with a casualty rate of 240 percent.

And the truth of the matter is the number of WWII veterans has been dwindling ever since - and rather quickly of late.

Which leads me to the small world experience.

A couple of weeks ago I got a voice mail from a fella in Sacramento California who claimed to have served with my father during the war.

It would seem that his son-in-law was doing some research for him and stumbled across a posting of mine dating back to June of last year and passed the info along figuring they might have served in the same outfit.

Anyway, the father-in-law telephoned my pop but quickly learned that dad's memory isn't so hot anymore which led him to contact me directly.  So we chatted.  As it turns-out he did serve in the same outfit on the same dates in the same locations in France and Belgium.  They were both in the very same heavy weapons company but assigned to different platoons.

What are the odds of a son-in-law stumbling across a son's blog and connecting a couple of living veterans after the passage of almost 65 years?  It is singularly mind-boggling.  (Meg - if you are reading this I want to thank you for goading me into writing this infernal blog.  This has made it all worthwhile.  I mean that). 

To top it off I have two more readers.

During our chat this guy waxed eloquently about his squad-level experiences that were strikingly similar to those of my father. 

We exchanged email addresses and promised to talk further at the first opportunity and to swap stories.

So it is a really good thing that dad put pen to paper and chronicled his story about the war.  For the longest time he didn't talk much about it and it wasn't until I was a young adult that he actually shared much about his experiences.  You see, he couldn't do that anymore.

So if you know of a veteran and you have the opportunity - take the time to thank them for the sacrifices they've made.  You might want to consider pumping them for some information.  Most of them have a story to tell.  Make sure they talk of their experience and save those stories somehow.

Otherwise that history will be lost to the ages.

And check your voice mail.  You never know what nugget might be waiting for you,

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