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Thanks, Morrie

An elderly WWII veteran in my neighborhood was on an Honor Flight to Washington, DC, in May 2010. This thank-you note was in his "Mail Call" envelope to read on the flight back home. 

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Dear Morrie,

A belated and sincere thank you for your willingness to serve your country at such a critical time in our history. I can’t begin to imagine what it was like to be whisked away from your home and everything that was familiar. To arrive at an induction center, go through basic training, and then arrive in a strange and faraway place where you lacked basic necessities and were greatly outnumbered by people whose only goal was to kill you and your buddies. You put your life on the line for our country, and I am deeply grateful. 

My father also served in the Pacific during WWII. He rarely spoke of what he saw and went through, but I know he was profoundly affected. How could anyone NOT be affected? He had never been out of his small Arkansas town, and suddenly he was drafted and sent to the Philippines.  He was a Navy man, a skipper/pilot of one of the small landing craft. I'm pretty sure he didn't engage in any hand-to-hand combat like you and your buddies did. The story I remember Daddy telling, though, was about a young man on his boat. The man begged Daddy to let him stay on the landing craft and return to the ship. The young man was certain he would be killed if he left the boat. It took a while, but my father explained that young man had to get off or my father would be in trouble when he got back to the ship. The young man finally jumped into the water. Before he could make it to shore he fell dead in the water. I’m sure that story haunted my father for the rest of his life.

A few years ago when my mother and I went to visit one of her old friends, the husband Dee shared a story from his WWII experience. Dee was a sharpshooter in Europe. I don’t know the details about where he was--someplace wooded--but that could be almost anywhere. I know Dee came from a family with almost no money. He had become an excellent hunter so that he could help feed the family. I think sometimes one of Dee’s jobs in the Army was to go ahead of the rest of the group and clear the area of the enemy’s snipers. Or sometimes he was at the rear of the group to make sure no one was sneaking up on them. Anyway, Dee told me about a situation when he was on the lookout for enemies, and he tracked one down and took him out with one shot. Later he learned that it wasn’t an enemy but one of his own group. Now Dee is a very honorable man, but he knew that it wouldn’t do anyone any good for him to explain what had happened. He had no way of knowing that the person he was tracking was a good guy, so in his mind he knew he had done what he was supposed to do. But in his heart, he felt profoundly guilty. I’m sure that’s why he told me.

Anyway, I’m sure that you and the other Marauders have many similar and even more harrowing stories that haunt you. Know, however, that even though we have no idea of the kind of suffering and hardships you and your team went through, we deeply appreciate your service. And what’s more, we appreciate that you were able to come back home and get back to being an average Joe--working and contributing to your community.

I salute you for your dedication to our country. Thank you!