Wednesday, April 24, 2013
About ten or twelve years ago, on Veteran’s Day, the Sacramento Bee published a letter from a gent who’d recalled the return of soldiers after the armistice. His letter indicated that he had been too young to enlist. A poignant line at the end said: “The boys who left the farm and went to war came back changed. They came back men.”
The letter ran at the top of the column that day. It impressed me enough to contact whoever was the letters editor and ask him to pass along to the writer my thanks for sharing his perspective and insights.
The editor responded that the letter had come handwritten in a hand-addressed envelope and that it clearly was from an elderly writer who probably did not have access to a typewriter or word possessor. He said that he could not give me the man’s address (rightfully so) but he would try to pass my comments back to the correspondent.
About a week later, I received an envelope, addressed clearly by an arthritic hand. Inside were two sheets of lined paper – composed in the same hand – completely filled with recollections of World War I and its impacts on the little Midwestern farm community in which the then young boy had been raised. He wrote with excitement about the increased responsibility with which he'd been saddled, having to rise early and harness the team for work in the field each day; a task formerly accomplished by older youth. He contrasted that with the community’s reaction to the few who “only made it as far as Flanders.”
I know I’ve saved that letter somewhere. Historians might call it a “primary source.” For me, it is a connection I have to a distant past that I now feel I have somehow experienced. I must find it and share it with the grandkids.
© 2013Church of the Open Road Press