We had a running joke in the family. My dad was in the Army during the Korean war. That is no joke of course. The joke is, and it is the truth, he was stationed in Austria! There were very few Koreans in Austria in the early 1950’s! He was clearly out of harm’s way.
This is no longer a joke because we had a long conversation over the weekend, and it turns out, he was part of the occupation of Europe, post WW2. Well, this is a horse of a different color. He was in Europe as part of the Marshall Plan, I never thought to ask before this what he was actually doing in Austria. Now I know. He was the military police patrolling Salzburg.
And before your own family history is lost forever, ask your parents and grandparents, and everyone still alive from previous generations, to tell you their life/military history. You might find out some interesting information about the generations that preceded you.
I continued to ask my dad questions about other family members who are deceased. I was surprised by the story of one of my uncles. I had recently found out from my cousin that my uncle was a gunner in the air force, flying sorties over Germany. My cousin related a funny story about how the first time they went up in the air, my uncle’s partner on the other side of the plane, had to scream at him to start shooting. He may have froze up a little, what would you expect from a little Jewish boy from the Bronx.
But there is more. My chubby uncle, who used to sneak sweets all over his house (my aunt related some hysterical stories through the years), was actually a war hero. These are my dads words, and he is right. My uncle was fighting the Germans, shooting guns out of a plane, and his gunner partner at the time, on the other side of the plane, was hit and cut in two. How horrible for that to happen, and in front of my uncle.
And then the war was over. But not for my uncle. He was a Jew from the Bronx and knew how to speak Yiddish,. I found out that he was part of the group that liberated other Jews from the concentration camps. They needed his Yiddish speaking skills. I had no idea. I have a huge new found respect for my Uncle Manny. This was not the man I knew growing up, I am so happy to know of his war service.
We then spoke of my Uncle Albert. His service was less glamorous, he was stationed in Hawaii, after Pearl Harbor. He worked hard, but I do not think there was any combat happening at that time. Turns out my father’s cousins (three of them) were also stationed in Hawaii at different points. I had no idea that my dad’s entire generation of Russian immigrants (1st generation Americans) were servicemen. I am proud to finally have this information and share it with you on this July 4th weekend.
Lastly, I think I peeved a friend when she shared something about servicemen singing a religious song in public. Now I can tell her why I am against that 100%. Publicly, the US Army is not a Christian Army. The US Army’s members come from all religions. The armed forces are made up of men and women from all different religions, and to respect one, you must respect them all. My father shared with me the two times he had fights when he was in the Army. Both times it was when someone called him a Jew Bastard. He immediately started fighting with them. That is not what our Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines should be about today. In the early 1950’s there was a lot of ignorance that no longer exists. Publicly no religion is the face of our armed forces. Privately, religion is not anyone’s business.