Dear Young Person
I am an imaginary old man. I am every World War II veteran you never knew. I am each faceless GI from the bygone European War. Or any other war for that matter.
I am in my 90s and 100s now. Lots of young folks probably don’t even know I exist.
In my war, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of infantrymen, airmen, sailors, marines, mess sergeants, seabees, brass hats, engineers, doctors, medics, buck privates, and rear-echelon potato-peelers.
We hopped islands in the Pacific. We served in the African war theater. We beat the devil, then we came home and became the old fart next door.
Wartime was one heck of an era to be young. Let me tell ya. When we went overseas we were still teenagers, smooth skinned, scared spitless, with government haircuts, wearing brand new wedding rings. We hadn’t seen action yet, so we were jittery and lots of us smoked through a week’s rations of Luckies in one day.
Then it happened. It was different
for everyone, but it happened. Shells landed everywhere. People screamed. And in a moment our fear melted away and we had war jobs to do. It didn’t matter who we were or which posts were ours. Everyone worked in the grand assembly line of battle.
When the smoke cleared and the action was over, we had new confidence in ourselves, and we were no longer boys.
And anyway, we weren’t just boys, we were girls, too. There were 350,000 females serving in the U.S. Armed Forces in World War II. People forget that.
Speaking of women. We guys were always talking about our sweethearts, wives, and mothers. If you mentioned someone’s girl a man was liable to talk for hours about her. And even if you’d already seen his wallet photos before, you never interrupted a guy talking about his gal. Because eventually you’d be talking…