I don't use the word lucky lightly. In each service person's deployment, I believe there is some randomly special combination of circumstances that keep this one alive, and that one not. War is a uniquely random series of events. Napoleon lost at Waterloo because the fields were too muddy. The British lost the Battle of New Orleans due to a lack of ladders.
Yes, I've simplified the reasons, but in truth, better weather and proper equipment might have resulted in different outcomes. Random.
This is a picture of my uncle, Dale Bennett, and his dad, Harry, my great grandfather. Uncle Dale was my grandmother Myrtle's older brother. He was stationed in the Philippines during WWII.
|Harry Bennett (left), Dale Bennett (right)|
He was lucky. He came home.
I always knew him as a self-important, larger-than-life character. He managed a cemetery, compliments of the Republican Party who was in power in our hometown at the time. There was a huge brouhaha when my grandmother married my grandfather, whose family members were all Democrat, including cousin Adlai Stevenson.
Uncle Dale was gruff, direct, coarse-spoken. He had at least one wife, possibly more. I'm sorry to say, I've lost that part of the family history. All I have now is this photo of him and his dad, and some of the letters he wrote home to my grandmother.
The letters show him a little differently. Yes, he was still gruff and direct. But he was self aware. In one letter, he's asking Sis (my grandmother) what she did for his girlfriend Inez, because Inez can't stop talking about how wonderful his Sis is.
"I'm glad she likes you for any body that don't like you or any of the Family has got trouble with me," he writes. "As for myself I guess I can't get along with anyone, not even the damn J*ps." (sorry for the slur--it was as written.)
The other thing I learned is that he loved to write poetry. I always assumed it was just my grandmother who liked to write poems and make up stories, etc. Turns out, it ran deeper in my family than that.
Here's a poem Uncle Dale sent her. Technically, my uncle was a veteran, but he has long since passed. I think I can honor him today.
(That Postponed Letter)
I ought to write a letter,
But I can't get in the groove;
If I could write some certain things
You'd see my pencil move.
I'd like to tell what town I'm in,
And just what things I do,
But must be content to wait until
These wartime days are through.
I ought to write a letter
And repeat the things you know,
The things they would not censor out
Like how I love you so.
--Cpl. Dale H. Bennett
I look at these letters and can't help thinking of all the men and women writing letters that turn out to be their last communication with loved ones. I think of the families reading their words while a different letter is on its way, one that says there will be no more.
I pray for their safety, and will always respect their memory.