Monday, July 11, 2011

Forgive and Forget

The forgive part was easy. After all, it happened when I was in the second grade.

But here I am seventy years later writing about it. So much for the “forget” part of that tried and true advice.

It was 1942 and like all other cities in America, uptown Charlotte was full of soldiers, particularly when a trainload of troops would stop in our town overnight on their way to who knows where. The few Hotels back then were quickly booked up so citizens would volunteer to take in as many soldiers as they could accommodate. My Mom and Dad would always invite 2 or 3 of the men to sleep overnight in our living room.

What a thrill is was to not only meet some of my heroes but to have them spend the night at our house! I have no doubt that they would have preferred a home that didn't have a nosy kid pestering them with a hundred questions, but to a man, they were very kind and tolerant toward me.

WW2 Paratroopers

My favorite of all the branches of service were the paratroopers. There were two things about them that completely captured my imagination: the boots they wore....with the pants legs tucked in the tops, and the pin they wore on their uniforms; the one featuring two wings with a parachute between them.

Two symbols of their strength and courage.

I got to see those impressive icons close up one evening when two of those brave men slept over in our living room.

As usual, they were peppered with question after question from the bothersome kid of the house until well past his bedtime......probably as late as 9:15.

One of the men seemed to actually enjoy my company and as I recall said he had a son “back home” who was almost my age.

By the time I got up the next day, my Mom had already served the soldiers breakfast and my Dad had driven them to the train station. Mom said that one of them had left something for me on the table by the lamp. He said it was a gift for me.

WW2 Paratrooper Pin
Sure enough, there it was. Sitting beside the lamp.

His paratrooper pin!

Never had I received a gift like that!

I'll have to think long and hard about whether in all 75 years of my life I've ever been more thrilled about a gift as I was that morning!

Ed Myers 4th grade
The only thing I can think of that comes close is the sailor cap my uncle, who was in the Navy, sent me shortly after that, which I wore for the entire duration of the war.

My Mom pinned the paratrooper wings on my jacket and off to school I went, proud as a peacock. I think most of my classmates were mildly impressed but there was one kid who seemed as thrilled about it as I was. As I think back on it, his enthusiasm seemed a little bit over the top, but at the time I was pleased that he apparently was sharing in my joy.

The school day seemed to drag on forever. All I could think about was walking home proudly wearing my paratrooper pin!

Finally, the bell rang and I raced to the cloakroom (located behind the classroom) and grabbed my jacket. I immediately saw that the pin was no longer attached to my coat. I searched frantically thinking that it must somehow have fallen off.

 Paratroopers  jumping on D-Day
I was still searching after all the other kids had left. The teacher was surprised that I was still there and helped me look for my lost treasure. She thought it strange that something pinned to a jacket would fall off by itself, and told me that I should have said something to her about it before all the other kids had left.

She knew that the medal had been stolen. So did my parents.

But I continued to be in denial, and searched that cloakroom everyday for the rest of the year.

Of course I never saw my prized possession again

It had been mine for less than eight hours.

I saw a replica of that pin advertised on the Internet the other day so I bought it in case I ever tell that story to my grand kids I'll be able to show them what it looked like.

Also, the next time I go down to Charlotte, I'm going to contact Elizabeth School and see if they'll let me search that cloakroom one more time. -Ed