To those whose fathers, or grandfathers, participated in WWII.
I grew up listening to my father, Sgt. Stanley Kohn’s, stories about war during his two years in the European campaign.
He told me how scared he was as the Higgins Boat approached Omaha Beach. Bullets were whizzing by as he yelled to other soldiers to keep their heads down…the fear of wading through the water with full packs. And then the forever scramble up the beach in which everyone was most vulnerable. He saw soldiers around him fall.
The first 20 years of my life, I heard a lot of the same stories over and over. But when I hit my mid-20’s, my 50 something father clammed up. He didn’t discuss the war with me until a couple years before his death in 2003 at age 80.
I saw “Saving Private Ryan” and was amazed that the countries they fought in were the same as the stories I heard from my dad.
The movie came to HBO in 2001. My family was visiting for a holiday at his place in Palm Springs. We were sitting in the den when I noticed the movie was on. My father said he did not want to watch it. It was a matter of fact statement. No emotion in his words.
In those couple years before he died, he had a series of strokes. During that time, he opened up to me and told me things he had never uttered. Stories of the horrors of war. I was in my early 50’s and it still shocked me. He had held this in his entire life.
My father was shot trying to take down a German machine gun emplacement. The bullet hit him on the right side of his chest and nearly went out his back.
One day, when I was 13, I was in our backyard pool in Long Beach and for the first time I saw his wound like I had never seen it before. He stood in the shallow end facing away from me. I was treading water in the deep end.
The aid station did quick and dirty work to save his life. I saw that the docs had taken the bullet out of his back. But the sunny day and pool water enhanced his wound scars. I saw the messy hole and scars emanating from that hole like spider legs. I was shocked. The scar on his chest was minimal.
My father was awarded the Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars. I wish I had them. But his wife made sure I got nothing from my father’s life after he passed.
My father suffered from PTSD in silence his entire life. Looking back, I wish I had known this.
God bless our veterans and serving military.
My father(25) and mother(22) on their wedding day in 1948:
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