On this day, June the 6th, 1944, seventy-seven years ago, and, for what it’s worth, a month and change beyond three years before my birth, my parents generation experienced a great turning.
The Allied forces, led by the Americans, stormed the beaches of Normandy, in France. D-Day, as it has come to be recalled, remains the largest seaborne invasion in history. A month less than a year later, Nazi Germany would surrender. Three months after that the Japanese Empire would surrender.
Among the few things I own that were my father’s is a VFW cap with three rows of medals on it. Now, my father was a complex man, and among the complexities was a strong fantasy life and a constant puffing of things. I once read a newspaper story from when he was a bartender talking about his combat experience. Pretty much all of it was fabricated.
In real life, as much as life is ever totally real, he was a medic. This I know for sure. Well, as sure as such things can be. Near as I can tell he was released into the Army from prison in the last part of the War. And a condition was not being given a gun. He was, for whatever reasons, ashamed of that fact. Maybe the prison. Definitely the gun. And the stories that flowed out of the bars he worked at all had him carrying a gun not a medical kit.
For me inexplicable as he was in combat. No doubt.
Among the medals on that hat is a Purple Heart with two oak clusters, meaning he was awarded three of them. As he lost an arm and throughout his life little bits of metal continued to work their way out of his body, I’ve never doubted the veracity of the Purple Heart. One or three hardly matters. He should have gotten one for each of those jagged bits of metal.
But. And. There’s also a Bronze Star. This, I don’t know. He was such a fabricator. So, I just don’t know. Once I tried to track down his service record, but his record were lost along with many other’s in a catastrophic fire back in 1973. So, at this point it seems probable I will never know with any certainty any of this…
Well, except that Purple Heart. Those Purple Hearts…
I am someone who believes in the importance of truth. As best it can be put together. As provisional as it always turns out to be.
And, at the same time I understand the power of dream. Dreams are another truth. And sometimes just as powerful as a rock. Sometimes more powerful.
My father wasn’t in the French invasion marked on this day. He was part of the Army coming in through Italy. Somewhere along the line in that year between the invasion and the Nazi surrender there was a terrible battle. My father was tending the wounded. A friend had his face blown off. My father tried to help. He couldn’t. His friend wanted my father to shoot him, to end it.
He couldn’t. Maybe he ran from his friend. Maybe he didn’t. What I know is he didn’t kill his friend. The dreams take several shapes. But, it always ends the same way. He was hit with an explosion.
Those Purple Hearts.
In the following years he would get drunk, and sometimes he would fall, and sometimes I would sit holding his head up so he didn’t choke. And he would tell the story.
I can picture the battle. I can picture everything. Something of a fever dream. And somewhere along the line it became my dream. It became my memory. It became my wound. So, I know he earned that Purple Heart.
Absolutely. I remember how it happened.
Thee’s a line in Scripture about the sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons. I’ve always hated the line. And. Well, its also true. The flows of cause and effect are just built that way. And so, sometimes, we even inherit dreams.
In my twenties it was a common dream. As I enter my seventies, it’s pretty rare. Sort of a fading thing, like life itself. A bubble in a stream. A phantom. A cloud. A dream…
My World War II Dream…