Monday, May 30, 2011

Two Uncle Bills

Mollie writes:

It's Memorial Day, a time where we honor members of the military who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country. It probably doesn't take anyone much time to reflect on members of their family and friends who have served and paid the ultimate price.

I have two Uncle Bills who were actively in combat during WWII. Of course, other family members were as well (my Dad was a submariner in the Pacific), but these two uncles made sacrifices or endured torture for years in the name of Independence.

My father's brother, Bill Philbrook, was an enlisted man in the US Army who died at the end of the war. Bill was older than my father, and when my dad enlisted in the Navy when he was seventeen, my Uncle Bill would meet him on Oahu for the occasional rest and recuperation. We have a picture of Bill with our dad, all buff and brave, standing next to our dad, who looked a little wet behind the ears and quite peach fuzzy. It is amazing to me that this strong man was shot by a sniper where my Dad, all innocence and dewey eyed, returned to his submarine after R&R and performed his duties as a radar technician until the war was over. When dad entered the Navy, he didn't even shave - and when he was discharged, he didn't shave much. His older brother died just before peace was declared.

My mother's brother Bill was stationed in the Philippines at the outbreak of the Japanese invasion. Yes, he was a participant in the Bataan Death March, and yes he was a Japanese prisoner of war for years. He experienced the death of friends and torture during this internment, but came home a man of peace. He's still alive, and aging with dignity in Oregon. He raised 6 kids, labored at various lumber yards, paid his taxes and abided by the law. I don't remember once when he carried on about his military service. He's one of the many quiet heros.

My dad survived submarining to come home and also raise 6 kids. He died in 2005, and one of his tormenting memories was serving as a radar technician. He'd call my husband as he finished out his life, agonizing over whether or not God would forgive him the deaths of so many Japanese service people. My husband, a retired Naval Reserve Commander, reminded my dad that he was serving and defending his country in a war he hadn't started - at the tender age of 17.

When my dad died in 2005, he was still questioning war and his part in it.

We forget how savage war is, those of us who served behind the lines, or not at all. Some make the ultimate sacrifice in battle, and some try to make sense of it all years later.

Remember your Uncle Bills today.

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