Mary Ellen snapped this photo of Uncle Tom and me just after his 91st birthday last December. We were discussing the battle of Anzio Beachhead in which he participated during World War II.
During the course of our conversation, I asked him if he still dreams about the war. "Well," he said, a faraway look in his brown eyes, "Every now and then."
Although I was five years old when the war ended, I can still put myself back in that time and place: Uncle Tom's tiny, slick V-mails, Mother and Daddy huddled near our big battery-powered radio listening to President Roosevelt's fireside chats, Mother tearing rationing stamps from a strange little book, the look on Daddy's face when he learned one of his best friends was a prisoner of war.
But what I remember most vividly is the gaunt look on Uncle Tom's dark, handsome face and the restlessness and nervous energy surrounding him when he returned home.
I pulled up some of those memories and wrestled them into a short story, Because of the War, which was published in the spring 2008 issue of Straylight Literary Magazine.
I think it is very important that all veterans (particularly World War II veterans) leave behind their personal accounts of war. My former boss and treasured friend, Frank Chambers, wrote his. And Uncle Tom recently published The Ways of War, which was edited by Mary Ellen.
Congratulations, Uncle Tom. God bless you and veterans everywhere.