Tuesday, November 11, 2008

on remembering

One of the most amazing stories my family has is this:

Three of my dad's brothers fought in World War II. Two of them in the army, and one in the navy. They all joined around the same time, I believe, and once they were shipped overseas, contact was lost between the three of them, as you might expect.

My dad was the youngest boy in the family, the 9th of 10 kids, and a good 15 or so years younger than his oldest brother - dad was 4 when war broke out. He remembered letters from all of his brothers, but especially from the oldest, telling the family at home what was happening, what he was up to. Sometimes he sent my dad little souvenirs of places he'd been. I wish I knew what happened to them.

Our family was fortunate in that all three brothers returned home at the end of the war. None of them liked to talk about it much, and one of my uncles suffered some serious post-traumatic stress syndrome, and was never really the same after the war ended. He struggled for the rest of his life with bouts of depression and other forms of mental illness. War will do that to you, won't it?

So as I said, the three of them shipped off, in different forces, in different sections, and they only heard about each other through letters from family members at home who would try to keep them all posted.

At one point, toward the end of the war, one of the brothers was on leave in Italy and wandered into St. Peter's square. Shockingly, he recognized another soldier there - his brother. The two of them were blown away - what a coincidence. Shortly after their reunion, they happened upon a sailor whom they both recognized. The third brother. All of them, together, standing in St. Peter's square, all on leave at the same time. Incredible. Knowing my uncles, there were likely some beers consumed and some good stories told, until once again, they would have had to part ways.

Where would their next reunion be? Would there even be one? I can only imagine their emotional state as they said their goodbyes. As I've said, we were lucky in our family. All my grandma's boys came home.

They're all gone now, including the littlest brother, my dad. On Remembrance Day, I like to think they're having yet another reunion someplace. Complete with cold beers, good stories, and lots of laughs.

Thanks, guys.

11 comments:

Mary Lynn said...

What an amazing story. They must've been completely floored to all be there at the same time.

Librarian Girl said...

I love that! So amazing.

vivian said...

Awesome story. Thanks for sharing it.

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