It was Sunday December sixth. That meant the next day was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. At church I missed hearing Stan share stories with us about the war. He always did that on the Sunday closest to December seventh.
But Stan’s sweet wife had passed away, and he couldn’t live alone. He had moved into an assisted living facility. I felt strongly on this day that he could use a visit, so in the evening, I drove up to town. My eight-year-old daughter loved to go visiting with me, so she came along.
When we got there, Stan was in his pajamas, sitting on the edge of his bed. When I knocked, he looked up. I could see tears in his eyes, but he smiled when he saw us.
After we exchanged greetings, Stan asked, “Do you know what tomorrow is?”
I nodded. “It’s Pearl Harbor Day, Stan.”
He smiled. “I thought everyone from the younger generation had forgotten.”
He looked at my daughter and patted the bed beside him. As she took a seat, Stan said to her, “Don’t ever forget the great men and women who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.”
“I don’t think she has heard many of the stories of your experiences,” I said. “Why don’t you share some with her?”
“I well remember Pearl Harbor Day,” Stan said. “It was just as if it was yesterday.”
He then went on to tell about the shock he felt when he heard the news. “The entire nation was reeling from the fact Japan would act like they were making a treaty as a ploy to throw us off guard, then bomb us.
“It wasn’t long before I was drafted into the army. I was barely old enough to go, but my number came up right away. As I went through boot camp, I thought they were trying to kill me even before I got to fight the enemy.
“We finally finished, and we got a couple weeks of leave to go home. That was when I married my dear, sweet wife. Before they drafted me, we had been planning our wedding. But when I came home, we just married and spent that short time together. I can remember how her father tried to talk her out of it since I could be killed. But she loved me enough to go through with it.
“Those two weeks were really short, and soon I was back with my unit heading to the war. But just when we were to move to the front lines, they commanded us to line up. We did, and a general pulled up in a jeep. He got out and looked us over. Then he barked out, ‘Any of you who have worked with cattle, sheep, or other livestock, take one step forward.’
“I stepped forward, and it was no surprise to anyone that I was the only one in my unit. The others called me ‘Farm Boy’ because they were all from big cities.
“The general walked over and stood in front of me. ‘Have you ever sewed up a cow?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘Have you ever had to use a knife to cut into a cow to try to save her life?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I replied. He looked at me for a moment, and then said, ‘You are going to become an army nurse.’
“I was so shocked I couldn’t speak for a moment. When I did, I said, ‘But, sir, I have never worked on humans. And cows and humans are very different.’
The general scowled. ‘Don’t you think I know that, Private? In war, we take what we have and make them the best we can. You will report to headquarters at oh seven hundred hours tomorrow.’
“The general then left to do the same at other units. The men started teasing me, saying stuff like, ‘If I get hurt and moo loud enough, will you sew me up?’ But my good friend and bunkmate, Private David Hansen, said, ‘If I get hurt, I’ll look forward to seeing you.’”
At this point, Stan paused. Tears poured down his face when he continued. “And I did see thousands of men come through, and we saved many. But for every one we saved, there were many more who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms of our country.”
Stan then turned and looked into my daughter’s eyes. “That is what I want you to remember.”
(To be continued)