A veteran comes home for keeps

Veterans Day is a day to thank living veterans for all they’ve done for our country. 

Just as another reminder: Memorial Day is set aside to honor fallen soldiers. In 1938 Congress dedicated November 11 “to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as ‘Armistice Day.’”  This new legal holiday honored the World War I veterans and the end of “The War to End All Wars.”  In 1954, after both World War II and the Korean War, Congress changed  “Armistice” to “Veterans,” and November 11 became a day to honor all American veterans of all wars.

Last week I wrote about my Uncle Gene enlisting during WWII and my grandfather’s reaction. Today, I include the last from his memoir about his memory of Uncle Gene’s experience..

As the train stopped, Gene was already standing on the step ready to jump off. Was he glad to be back. He looked kind of tired, but otherwise okay. It was a two week leave while the ship was being repaired. He had a lot to tell us and did have a lot of fun with his buddies here. But the time kept slipping away and there were only a few more days and I began to see that Gene hated to go back. He was told that when the ship was repaired it would go back to sea. I never will forget that day when Gene was to leave. I went to his bedroom to get him up and he laid there awake and when I told him it was time to go, he half cried and didn’t want to go. He asked me if I could possibly get in touch with the Red Cross and get an extension to his leave. I called the Red Cross and they told me what to do. I told Gene what I was doing but in the meantime, I told him to get ready. There still was time, as the train to Chicago left at 3 p.m. It was a sad day for all of us.

Every time the phone rang I was hoping it was good news, but no word. I was trying hard to make Gene understand that he would not go to sea again because by now the ship was probably on its way. Furthermore, he was in no condition to go and there will be a fresh crew to take his place. I tried so hard to make him see that the war was almost over and I was willing to bet that in maybe a month hw would be on his way home. He cheered up a bit and we heard the sound of the train and soon it was at a stand still and time to get in. How he hated to go and stood there in the doorway till he disappeared in the distance. I stood there looking until the last coach no longer was to be seen.

from the memoir of Frank N. Zyber (undated)

cocoparisienne / Pixabay

Grandpa paints a melancholy picture of father and so at the train depot.

Back home and it wasn’t more than ten minutes and the phone rang. It was the Red Cross telling me that Gene was granted a forty-eight hour extension. I thanked them but did not tell them that he already had left. It was some time in the evening when the phone rang and it was Gene and he said that he was in Chicago and wanted to know if I heard anything about extending his leave. When I said that I did and he had forty-eight hours more, all he said was, “I’ll be right back,” and hung up. Sure enough, some time after midnight, the phone rang and it was him at the depot and asked me to come and get him. A couple of days home, and he went back, there was no problem that time.
Maybe it was only a guess, but it was not much more than a month and we heard from Gene that in a week or so he would be at the Great Lakes getting his final discharge.

Gene got home for keeps.

from the memoir of Frank N. Zyber (undated)

kalhh / Pixabay

WWII veterans and their families didn’t know about PTSD.

Mom told me that Uncle Gene was never the same. He went from a carefree kid, to a cantankerous man who didn’t engage that much. The family knew that something horrible happened on that ship. WWII veterans didn’t talk much about their experience during the war, and families were fearful about asking.

There are so many questions I wish I could ask Uncle Gene.  Most of all, I wish I could say I’m sorry for always thinking of him as Mean Uncle Gene.  He must have carried such a burden.

American WWII soldiers coming home

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