Uncle Leo was my favorite. Maybe it was his smile, the way he always acknowledged me, or maybe it was because he was the one who most resembled my Mom.
He worked for the gas company. Like so many of those Tom Brokaw has called ‘The Greatest Generation," he came back to a country much different than the one he left to go and fight with the Army in the Pacific during WW II. He quietly went about the business of building a home and raising a family and pretty well blending into the background.
When I found a funny looking piece of what appeared to be tree bark, I almost threw it away. Only later did I learn that it was sent by Uncle Leo as a letter home. He wrote with a charred ember on a piece of Coconut bark and it actually found its way back to America. That discovery led me to ask Mom some questions.
What emerged was a story worthy of a Steven Spielberg blockbuster. I learned that Uncle Leo was in combat on some forsaken island in the Pacific, when his platoon was pinned down. A wounded soldier was left in no-man’s-land between the lines. My quiet uncle left the safety of his position and ran out into the open and pulled his buddy back to safety. On his second run to help another soldier, he took a round in his hip.
For his valor he was awarded the Silver Star. To the day he died, he carried that bullet in his body. This accounted for the slow gait that characterized his walk. Our nation has produced many Uncle Leos. They drew no attention to themselves. If you asked about the war, they would generally change the subject.
Today it is appropriate, not mandatory, that we stop and remember the sacrifices of the brightest and best whose lives were cut short because they answered the call to service.
Remembering . . ..
Copyright 2008 by Jim Jenkins. All rights reserved.