Every Memorial day of my childhood, Dad lifted the lid of his battered old Army trunk and reviewed its contents. Sitting cross-legged on the basement floor, I accompanied him on a nostalgic, mothball-scented trip back in time to meet men Dad once knew in a very different place and time.
I loved to look at photographs and listen to stories about the men Dad met as a stateside training sergeant during World War II. One soldier in particular captured my interest. In the framed photo, Maurice wore a Clark Gable mustache and his dress cap sat at a slightly rakish angle. I thought he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. Maurice did not return from a combat mission in the South Pacific and, in my movie-influenced young mind, that made him a daring and romantic figure.
Some years after Dad died, I found among his papers one of those miniature World War II letters called V-Mail. It was from Maurice. The short note revealed his excitement at getting into the action. I also found a card Maurice’s mother had sent to my parents along with a gift at the time of my birth. So, Dad knew Maurice’s family. That was a surprise. I decided to search for them.
It seems silly now, but my first action was to Google Maurice’s name. I suppose I was looking for a grave marker or an old newspaper announcement of casualties. To my surprise, a photo of a living man with the same name appeared on my screen. The person who looked back at me was too young to be a now 90-something Maurice miraculously recovered from a South Seas island.
With a little more searching, I found an email contact for this new Maurice. He promptly responded that he was a nephew named in honor of his uncle who was lost at sea. Before the war, he said, Dad had lived in their town, worked with one of the first Maurice’s brothers, and became a frequent supper guest at the family home. The first Maurice had been more than just another trainee passing briefly through Dad’s life. He had been a connection to happier times before the war turned everyone's plans and dreams topsy-turvy.
After all these years, I am pleased to know the rest of the story about a man I met in a photograph while reviewing the contents of an old trunk with my Dad.
Causes Cynthia Becker Supports
Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region