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found poem: the whole

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found poem: THE DEAD

Veterans Day

LRK tags and bronze star certificate

My father was a smart and honest man, quiet and hardworking, with a fine sense of humor, genuine warmth, and a profound love of family. He was a deep thinker and an avid reader. He approached problems with the orderly sensibility of an engineer. He fought for his country in a terrible war and, like most soldiers, saw too much that was unbearable. Whatever was broken inside him as a result of that experience remained — through strength of character, habit, luck, training, fear, or sheer stubbornness — contained and silent for the rest of his long life. I salute him and I miss him.

Veterans Day

LRK 1942 Camp YoungMy father, who served during World War II, did his military training at Camp Young — the headquarters of the Desert Training Center, in California’s Mojave Desert, and the world’s largest Army post. Although the work was serious and hard and dirty, the war itself was, for the moment, far away.

He wasn’t big on mementos and didn’t own a camera until much later in his life, but there remain from those months of training a small collection of 8-by-10 glossies of Les, age 31. He never said why they were taken — perhaps for a newsletter or Army recruiting materials. Some are informal, like this one; others are lit dramatically.

As with the rest of his military service, Les spoke little of these months in the desert. The one story I remember was the one he told me each time I pulled out his Army sleeping bag for a slumber party. Near the foot of the bag, on the inside, was a hand-sewn patch, about four inches square. He told me that a field mouse had burrowed through the fabric and dropped a litter of pups in the soft filling. The mother mouse escaped and Les removed the babies, putting them, he assured me, “in a safe place.” As my father watched, I would cautiously unzip the bag, spread it flat and inspect the patch for recent incursions.

The story, with its frisson of the wild kingdom, long outlived its smallest characters. But it was one he could share with his young daughter, and one he could tell without threatening the edifice of silence within which he — and so many soldiers — lived for the remainder of their long lives.

Veterans Day

LRK - Desert Center - 1942

LRK ~ Desert Center, California ~ June 1942 ~ 161st Signal Photo Co.

My father (1910-1997) served in the U.S. Army from January 1942 through January 1946. As a Captain at Desert Center, California, first under General George S. Patton, Jr., then under General Alvan C. Gillem, Jr., he was a test officer on the armored force board and desert warfare board.

As Major, Armor, in the U.S. Army XIII Corps under General Gillem, he served as operations and training staff officer and assistant G-3 in a Corps headquarters. In 180 days, beginning in Hoensbroek, Holland, in November 1944, the XIII Corps, defending the flank of the Ninth Army, pierced the Siegfried Line, reaching the Elbe River in April, 1945, a push of more than 300 miles.

He was awarded the Bronze Star medal for “distinguishing himself by meritorious service in connection with military operations against the enemy in Holland and Germany from 8 November 1944 to 7 May 1945.”

For the many remaining decades of his life, he maintained contact with a number of his Army buddies and spoke warmly and with good humor of the shenanigans and personalities of those times. But, even under pointed questioning, he refused to speak of any other aspect of his military service.

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