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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Discovering a Side of my Dad I Never Knew

(With Memorial Day coming up, I thought I’d share this personal story about my father, who was a veteran. Let’s take a few minutes to think of those currently in our military branches and all of the veterans, who through the years have served to preserve, protect and defend our country and our democracy.)

    My father served in the Army during World War II. He was stationed in Europe, was wounded, and received a Purple Heart.

     He never spoke of his service. He died in 2009. And that’s all we ever knew about it.

    Until now.

    In sorting through our parents’ attic, my sister and I discovered a small box filled with mementos related to his experiences as a soldier

    He was drafted into the Army and assigned to the 4th Infantry. We found his draft card.

                             Dog tags                                                    Wallet

But the most interesting find was a yearbook-style history of the Word War II experiences of the 4th Infantry. I never knew these accounts were compiled and published, let alone that my father had one.


There are photos and accounts of the experiences of the 4th Infantry. In the margins at several points, my father had penciled notes of his personal experiences.


And in the back of the book are pages and pages of photographs of the men who fought in the various companies. Many of them look like young kids. And the sheer numbers in just the 4th Infantry begin to bring home a sense of the unimaginable numbers of service people who fought in World War II.


Tucked inside the book, was one clipping:

My dad and I were never close. Finding these mementos, which were important enough for him to keep all these years, has given me an intimate look at a side of him I never knew. I wish he could have shared recollections of his war experiences with me.

 In a way, I guess, he has. 

Have you discovered a side of a parent you didn’t know about when you were growing up?


  1. Wow, what a gem to find all that information. It was a characteristic of that generation that they never boasted of their bravery and their stoicism was amazing. I hope the find warms your heart.

  2. It made me feel closer to him and wish I had understood the horror he'd been through. When I was young, World War II was often romanticized in movies, which distorted my perception of it.

  3. World War II was a war so important to the freedom of the world. It was a war we could not lose. Can you imagine what would have become of us if Hitler and his associates had won? It is too horrible to contemplate such an existence. We owe such a debt to those who served like your dad.

    My dad was in the Navy during WWII. Men were expected to be stoic and hold back their feelings. They suffered for it. I imagine your dad probably suffered from PTSD after his trials in that war. Soldiers built a wall around themselves, became distant to those they loved, and often didn't want to share their experiences except with other soldiers.

    I know it must have been so wonderful for you to have found your father's war mementos and discovered what a good and brave man he was. His is a history you can be proud of. I think he would have wanted you to know these things or he would not have kept them. Maybe he just couldn't talk about it to you.
    My heart goes out to you, Ann. I'm certain you wish you could have known these things while he was alive, but you show him such honor now with this post. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

  4. Thank you for your kind comment, Sarah. Yes, discovering this side of him has been a real blessing.

    My father-in-law, like your father, served in the Navy during World War II, and he didn't talk about it, either.

    We owe all of the brave men who served in that war a profound debt of gratitude.

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