Friday, September 28, 2007
Ken Burns captured The Civil War so poignantly and dramatically in his series, but maybe I felt that way because my grandfather fought in the Civil War. (Segment 6 was my grandfather’s unit, fighting at Missionary Ridge and marching to the sea with Sherman). The West, another Burns production, gave a great overview of the era. The newest show The War (WWII) tries to capture the feel of the home front, the little things everyone experienced at home. True, I have only seen the first couple of segments, but to me, it did not emotionally portray what the everyday person was going through. Maybe it is because it is still too close, as two of my brothers served. I kept comparing my family stories to those that were told, and although many were universal themes, maybe I was too aware of the hardships personally. I am waiting for my brothers’ reactions and comments, particularly as the third segment followed one brother’s route from Anzio to Rome and into Germany. His one comment recently when asked about The War,was to share that he was at the Coliseum in Rome when D-Day happened. We do not have that in a V-Mail—it was of course censored.
My oldest brother was injured and moved from hospital to hospital, probably 2-4 weeks ahead of any mail or packages from home. It was so painful for my mother to receive his V-mail letters begging from word from home, he was so homesick. Luckily at one of the hospitals he met up with an old high school friend who shared the local paper and some news of home, like stories of their high school football team.. It saved his life.
We lived on a farm bordered by a railroad track. Later in the war, some of the wounded were shipped to a local Veteran’s Hospital by train. Mother got used to the young soldiers jumping off the train when it stopped at the end of our drive where it would switch into the town. She fed them all. They were all so polite and called her M’am. Some just wanted to sit on the steps under the walnut trees and pet our dog Sandy, but they always managed to drink some cold well water and eat a cookie or peanut butter sandwich. We were poor, but no one went away without a little something. But the thing she never got used to was how grateful they were and her response was always, “my boys are over there and I hope someone would treat them the same.” As young as we were, my sister and I could feel the rise of hope in our mother when a soldier walked up the drive from the road—maybe it was one of our brothers. She always asked where they were from and which battle front they had fought in and gave them our name, hoping they had news. We were lucky, both of my brothers came home from that war.
The Library has the Ken Burns book and DVD on order. If you missed it on TV, borrow the DVD and sit with your dad or neighbors who lived through the War, the memories it dredges up may surprise you.