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Gone Too Soon

Still he stares out from under the dress army cap, his clear blue eyes twin sturdy sentinels against the strong tanned face. Up there on the book case, right next to the photo of Gramps in his World War I aviator's head gear and jacket.

Blind since childhood in one eye and deaf in one ear, he tried once, twice, thrice, to join the army, only to be rejected each time. Though Americans were dying bloody deaths all over the world in the early 1940s, we weren’t yet desperate enough to have to take men with one good eye and ear.

Finally, after a year of bitter, tearful frustration, he sauntered into a recruiting station one day and, when the sight test came, deftly “switched” from his bad eye to his good, just in the nick of time. Or was it? He ever after suspected that the physician recognized him from previous attempts and let him pass through just because the nineteen-year-old wanted so badly to go do his part for his country—his country being his family and friends and the civilization that had given him all he had.

Perhaps you have heard some of the names. Far away names to us, as we watch our ESPN and play our Nintendo. Titles of John Wayne movies and destinations of special discount travel packages. New Guinea. Leyte Gulf. Tarawa.

In other old pictures you can see the thick full head of curly blond hair with which he left the States. In the pictures after the war, he usually wears his Stetson, to cover the pate that was bald when he returned four years later.

But unlike many of his fellow soldiers and high school buddies, he did come back. To America’s new morning. While other nations dug out from rubble, America stood tall and colossal, the savior of Christian civilization. Winner of “The Good War.”