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Friday, May 8, 2015

Flashback Friday Revisits 70 Years Ago Today...to a Heroic Generation

T/Sgt. Wills with two K9 buddies.
Today, we are taking trip down Memory Lane to an important time in our American history. Seventy years ago today - May 8, 1945, was VE Day, Victory in Europe Day, signaling the nearing end of World War II. My dad served in the United States Army from 1939 until the end of World War II in 1945. He served two tours in the European Theater - one from 1942 until 1943 with the renowned "Big Red One" 1st Division, and then a second time he went back with the men he trained in the 16th Infantry's Rainbow Division, both times in a medical detachment. Ironically, May 8th is also the day my Dad earned his wings and journeyed to Heaven...in 1974, just one year shy of 30 years after he was one of our nation's "greatest generation" heroes. My Dad was a great lover of animals, dogs and horses in particular. Even on base, he canine buddies!



In 1995, I was part of our city's WWII Commemorative Anniversary Committee and worked with city officials, school board members, students of all grades, and WWII veterans, specifically a good friend and U.S. Army veteran, Dick "Mr. Flag" Williams, who throughout his life, donated American flags to schools and organizations, and spoke to the history of our World War II veterans, both those who served overseas and those here on the homefront.

T/Sgt. Dick Williams
Mr. Williams was a proud veteran who served with the U.S. Army's 78th infantry, retold many stories from his time serving during the war with such a knack, you could almost hear and see what he was describing. In his later years, he even returned overseas to revisit many areas he had been as a young soldier. We shared many hours of talking history. In many ways, he made me feel closer to my own father, who I lost when I was only a young teen.  Mr. Williams visited schools. He taught proper flag etiquette. And he shared stories and photos from a generation long past. The best part was he always called me and invited me to events and shared many hours of his living history with me and my young daughter. He respected me not only as a fellow WWII veteran's daughter, but also as a journalist. It was a wonderful team of veteran and writer, and I became the committee's official WWII Commemorative correspondent. Sadly, Mr.Williams passed back in 2006, and I lost a great friend and that special connection to my own dad was lost, but he entrusted me with carrying the torch of educating today's youth about that great generation of men and women who loved their country and banned together through one of the toughest times in history. In his honor, there's even a lane in his town now named after him. He'd really like that.


Through him and his American Legion post, I was awarded a plaque for "Preserving History of WWII Promoting Future Peace Through Education." Definitely, one of the proudest moments of my life and a journey through history with this veteran who I was proud to call my friend.


My daughter and Mom at Wall of Honor. 1995.

Part of our role in the WWII Commemorative Committee was to plan a living history for the district's schoolchildren that would also become part of the curriculum. Working with teachers and district administration, as well as area veterans, and, of course, the school children, we had an assembly with invited WWII veterans who spoke of their experiences as soldiers, nurses, and my Mom was a guest speaker talking about her role as a "Rosie the Riveter" working in an arsenal to help do her part on the homefront. On display at my daughter's elementary school was a "Wall of Honor" with photos and written essays from the children about their relatives who were WWII veterans. We had displays of a Victory Garden the children put together, student performances, and also a temporary  museum was erected down by our waterfront, with assistance from district students of all ages. Concerts were put on with the band students playing songs of the 40s. It was a beautiful living history lesson that brought together two generations of people that not only the students enjoyed, but was a valuable teaching tool for all. I was committed then, as I am to this day, that as both the proud daughter of WWII veteran and a "Rosie" mother, as well as being a journalist, to always share stories and remembrances of these heroic men and women so that future generations will know the foundations they stand on today.

World War II also had the incorporation of "war dogs" - including Siberian Huskies and their "cousins" the Malamutes that were used as "pack and pull dogs" to pull sleds of equipment needed into remote areas. This was the early stages of the military working dog program. The official War Dog Ambassador was a beautiful Siberian  Husky "Buck," who himself not a military dog, but rather the champion of all who were. His handler was a Vietnam veteran and author of  Buck's Heroes,  Johnny Mayo. This beautiful book and unique tale is one of my favorites. Here is our Harley with the cover of this beautiful book featuring War Dog Ambassador "Buck."

World War II saw not only humans, both men and women, serving their country, but also courageous canines. To learn more about the United States War Dogs, please visit their website HERE.

Many people talk about "signs"...while writing this piece, an
Dad, standing upper left.
old photo suddenly just appeared of my father with two buddies in fatigues from when he was in the CCCs (Civilian Conservation Corps) shortly before he enlisted in the Army.  I turned around from my computer, and it was just lying there
on a stack of items in our in-bin as though someone placed it there. I had not taken out old photos for a very long time, and this was in our home office, so there's no way it would have gone unnoticed. Then, later on while I was going back over my Dad's history and reviewing his papers, looking at the list of medals he was awarded, and reading an article on him from a newspaper, the phrase "Operation Husky" jumped off the page at me. Naturally, the word "Husky" always catches my attention, and as I read a little further, it said his unit was a vital part in the allied invasion of Sicily - codenamed "Operation Husky." Chills. My Dad had told me a little about when he was in Sicily, but I don't ever recall hearing the word "Husky." Plus, I was just a young teen back then. 

Gibson and Operation Husky
Then something else occurred to me as I walked out into the living room and slid a book I had purchased last year off the shelf - it's title? Operation Husky. It's the Canandian account of the invasion and when I saw it last year, I thought it would be interesting since, a) I'm a WWII buff, b) I'm a Husky lover, and 3) I have paternal ancestors who hailed from Canada (arriving to New York via wagon train)! So, guess which book is next up on my reading list? And yes, a review will be coming!

 Talk about coincidences or signs...from the significance of today's date on a national and personal level, to the sudden appearance of my Dad's photo, to the connection of "Operation Husky," I'd like to believe these were all signs that my Dad is looking over my shoulder and guiding me as I bring to life a little (once) living history by putting "quill to paper," or in a more modern translation, by keystroke and print!

If you ask me, I don't really believe we need to wait for a certain "anniversary" number to reflect back on the selfless efforts both man and canines have done for our country...let's all try to make an effort to continue the history lesson now and for future generations to come, so no one will ever forget these valiant soldiers, both the two-legged and four-legged breeds.


"Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~Melody Beattie





Flashback Fridays are brought to you by us - the FiveSibes - and our invited co-hosts, Love is being owned by a Husky, each Friday. We hope you'll find a photo or video from your Memory Lane, post it, and link up to our blog hop each week! If you don't catch it on Friday, you can link up any time during the week!

 

4 comments:

  1. Great post! We will always love all of our heros!

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  2. This was a wonderful Flashback post!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Very near and dear to my heart. <3

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