Several years ago I had the pleasure of appearing on Channel 8 to talk about A TROUBLED PEACE, the sequel to UNDER A WAR-TORN SKY, on Veterans' Day. I had the distinct honor of being on the program with a 90+ WWII veteran, who had served as a navigator on a B-24. Like so many of his generation, he had a wry, generous sense of humor. He ended his comments by asking listeners on this very special day when they saw veterans to say "hello and thank you." So for a few years while he remained alive, I would send flowers to his retirement home apartment that simply said: Hello and Thank You. He, evidently, with that droll sense of humor of his, would put them on a little table outside his apartment door with a card noting they came from a much younger woman. I gather his compatriots loved the flowers and his joke and the sentiment of my card.
The more serious side of my brief friendship with this gentleman was his telling me that he still woke up smelling flak -- that boiling exploding shrapnel Hitler's army shot into the air to take down our planes. Sixty years later. Many ack-ack batteries were so accurate in their aim that our flyers called them Daniel Boones (for our frontier marksmen.) My Daddy in that flyboy bravado of his would try to laugh off the memory of flak when we talked about it, joking, "yeah, it was so thick we could almost walk across it to our targets." I can still see that slight reassuring smile he would give me when he said things like that. That's the kind of matter-of-fact courage those guys had.
I can only imagine what our WWII veterans would think about the flare-ups of neo-Nazi graffiti and vandalism and verbal assaults our country has witnessed in the 72 hours since Trump was elected. But today, I want to stick to honoring the spirit of this nation and our servicemen and women who have fought so hard and under such dire dangers to protect individual liberty, freedom of religion and speech, and human dignity.
So....Hello and thank you.
An additional thought. If you really want to know what these airmen went through, Edward R. Murrow, my journalistic hero, went on a bombing raid during WWII to report on what the experience was like. It is a stunningly eloquent and harrowing broadcast. You can listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOY5HmJubEc
If you'd like to hear Colonel Robinson, click on the link on the right of the page here: http://lmelliott.com/book_landing_page_historical/troubled-peace/