As a young man of just under 20 years, my dad made his first trip overseas. It was the height of World War II, and Dad was the Top Turret Gunner and Flight Engineer on a B-17G Bomber in the 8th Air Force 385th Bomber Group. His bomber group had flown to Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England early that April. While they were at war, and that was a scary thing for any sane person, there was also a part on my almost 20 year old future dad that felt a bit of excitement. He was in a new country…an old country by the world’s standards, with things and places we just didn’t have in the relatively young United States. There were castles and old churches to see. In the United State, we had churches built of logs and wood, and modest homes often built the same way, but in England, there were buildings that had an artistic side to them. There were so many sights that he would not be able to see at home, and might never see again. No wonder her was excited.
Dad knew of the dangers he and his fellow crewmen were facing in England and over Europe, but the excitement of being in a completely different country, so far away from home was something that was hard not to like. He found the people interesting, the structures elegant and beautiful, and the climate different from what he was used to. Of course, he missed his family, and wanted to make sure his mother didn’t worry too much, so that might have also been the reason that he always tried keep his letters light. For me, having the advantage of knowing that he made it through the war and came home safely, it is easy to look beyond my dad’s careful words, to the excitement that lies behind them. Dad always loved to travel, and while this was clearly different, it was still travel, and by airplane, no less. What young man of 19 years wouldn’t be excited about all the new things he was able to do and see.
My dad has been in Heaven for almost ten years now, and I miss him terribly. His kindhearted ways endeared him to everyone from family to friends. Dad was always the thoughtful one…always a gentle man…and a gentleman. He wasn’t harsh, and he was always a gentleman when it came to treating women in the way they should be treated. Dad was quite possibly the last of the Southern Gentlemen…even if he wasn’t from the South. Looking back now on the ten years that he has been gone, I know that I miss him just as much today, as the day he left us…and I always will. Happy birthday in Heaven Dad. I know you and Mom are having a fine time. Just know that you are always in our thoughts. We love and miss you so much.