Dear Stuart,

Hope you had a nice Veterans Day.

I didn’t hear from my kids Tuesday. Not from my youngest (who usually calls), nor my eldest (who discounts reservists)— nor even from my middle one, who, (no pun intended), remains AWOL.

I heard from you. And Bobby. And my brother. Plus a card  from Carrie— she gets it.

The usual suspects, Stuey. No more, no less.

Look, I know you’re like me. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES would we equate our six months away — stateside at that — as being in harm’s way. We never have.

Yet sacrifice we did; disrupt our lives we did; and in our generation we were a distinct minority. Not that we wanted to go, but we went. Not that we relished the time, but we served.

You went to the Coast Guard, like Agin. I, to the Army, like Himmel.

You they docked in Cape May, New Jersey: armpit of the armpit. Me they flew to “Basic” in Louisiana. Eight weeks I spent tiptoeing through snakes and shrubs on a military scavenger hunt searching for just one Jew to talk to.

— And in uniform too, we lost. You: forty pounds…and me? I shed a fiancé.

I don’t know about you Mr. Fenton, but I’m proud of that time. In a way, it’s no different than other fruits of my life. After all, I didn’t want to go to Hebrew School, but look back now in comfort. I didn’t run to recovery but cherish that journey. And yes, afraid as I was of enlistment — petrified to leave Ohio’s cocoon…I feel good about it now. It too was the right thing.

It’s true, you know: if we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. In hindsight I see not the after-school boredom of the 60’s, but a Jewish foundation solidified. I feel not the fears of early sobriety but marvel in the ordinary of my todays.

— And I recall well how I didn’t want to go away, how I hated each moment that played out in real time. And yet…

Picturing those days at Fort Polk, I conjure, still: laying on my bunk thinking that any minute something would happen and I ‘d that I’d get a call that I’d be going home. Really, Stuart. Surrounded by strangers that first week of ’72, midst a sea of southern accents, I was certain still that Al Bogart would rescue me! Convinced I was still that somehow, some way — like something out of the movies — any moment my father would arrive, scoop me out of distress, and take me from misery.

I hold those memories, Stuart, and I know you have yours, but I look now through a different lens….

I focus these days though, as I trust you do, on the fact that we went. On the truth that, involuntary as it was at the time, we got out of our comfort zones, and with it all, we grew.

Bottom line, Stuart…. Ask the guys about those twenty weeks…remind them how we went away each summer. They barely remember.

You do, though. And I do. And Bobby and Hal and Carrie.

(That seems like enough).

Happy Veterans Day. Four decades later I still salute you.


PS. Don’t forget about Ermine! The Navy? What was he thinking?

2 Responses to “PLATOON (?)”

  1. Stuart Fenton says:

    We are and should be very proud of the service we completed. A visit to the beaches of Normandy two Summer’s ago helped clarify the enormity of what Veteran’s Day should mean to all of us. Thank you to the Greatest Generation (thanks Dad). And, thanks to the American serviceman that liberated Marilyn’s Mother from Auschwitz and literally carried her to safety. And appreciation to those who will protect our Grandchildren from Radical Islam.

    Four decades later it’s clear that our sacrifice was small but important.
    Semper Paratas PS I clearly remember Mark’s tour in Italy!

  2. Stacy says:

    Sorry, dad!

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