Wednesday, November 11, 2009

veteran's day

I've told this many times, more than my Dad did, probably. He never told this to me, or any of his kids, to my knowledge, but it got back to us nonetheless (one of the hazards of him being a tavern owner: bar stories got re-told).

When Gordon was 15, he wanted to serve his country. He believed in the cause and probably needed the money and experience, but he was too young, so he did exactly what anyone would have done: "borrowed" his older brother's SSN and enlisted in the Army. (He also lied about his age at 10 so he could sell newspapers to help out the family's finances: you had to be 12, I believe. Walked downtown from Mt. Auburn to do it, too). It worked, and his Mother worked to get him out, but by the time she was successful, he'd completed basic training. He'd also turned 16, old enough to join the Merchant Marines! Off he went into the Pacific.

The stories are vague: evading a U-boat on the Euphrates, spending a few days in the water after a ship wasn't as fortunate, ending up recuperating in Egypt (his big regret was not getting to see the Pyramids when there) and while waiting for transportation home (resources were involved in some big offensive) he was injured by shrapnel while watching a firefight from a Venetian rooftop. By the time the boat got him home he was healed and 17, old enough for the Army, and re-enlist he did, skipping basic as he'd already done it, and was back to post-treaty Germany.

The one story I got out of the horse's mouth was when I was in the hospital recovering from my spleenectomy (4th grade sledding accident, if you must know) and he asked a nurse with a unique, but typically Cincinnati German last name if she was related to a war buddy of his: it was her father-in-law. He then regaled us (to entertain me, no doubt) with a story of their wartime experience as MPs at a military hospital in Germany. Seems the locals showed their gratitude by donating kegs of beer to the soldiers, but they had nothing to drink the beer out of, so they grabbed the closest things that resembled steins: handles? check. Vessel? check. You might be be guessing what in a hospital has a handle, can hold liquid, and is handy, indeed, pretty much one for every bed? Yep, they scrubbed the bed urinal thingys and drank the beer from those. Now you understand the picture!

He finished High School, stayed in for a while, and started a family, then law school, but didn't finish as he got a good job offer and the rest is his story, just not this one. I salute you, Gordon P. on this and every Veteran's Day, because now I know what it means, and I'm sorry I didn't get it when I was younger.

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