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Uncle John

By Dave Doc Rogers
© 20090131
For the “Support our Support” contest at Writers Café
He sat on his couch, surrounded by loved ones, showing a turkey shoot trophy for first place. He was an older man reliving the vigor of youth. I sat there watching as a young man, ignorant of the importances of life. Here was my uncle; my mother’s sister’s husband. I suppose proximity and familiarity diluted the strength of this man. I did not realize until much later the value of the man who sat there excitedly retelling how an “old man” like himself out shot all of those “younger” guys. My dad, no longer a young man himself, shared in that laughter. Knowing eyes did not divulge much more than laughter.
It was the thing all young men did. They kissed their wives or their girlfriends, waved good-bye to their moms, boarded a bus, and went to basic training. For those living in rural, depression-era Georgia during the 1930s and early 1940s, a money earner for the family just got on that bus. They would have to do with even less now. Some may have argued that very point. Others said nothing because it was the right thing to do. In middle Europe at the same time, no one had an option. They were engaged in a war.
My Uncle John arrived at boot camp, received the haircut, was issued new clothes, was told where to go. He distinguished himself as a country boy who could shoot. They transferred him to one motorized division to another one for special infantry. After training, he went to England. After England, he spent considerable time in France. He was with the boys that survived when they landed at Normandy. He was with them when his division was honored for holding a key city until relieved. I was told his tank was hit. He went one way. His best friend went the other. They didn’t see each other again for many years. Grown men bawling like babes on a downtown street.
The honored sergeant returned home. There were no outward signs of damage. It was a different era. They didn’t talk about combat fatigue or battle stress. They just dealt with ‘their’ issues. Those that served in the Pacific or in Europe understood what it was like. The horror stories these men could not share because the eyes staring back at them would disbelieve. For an infantry soldier, warfare gets very close and personal. Uncle John was no exception. My mother related a story after my uncle’s return from war where his mind returned to war while his body was in central Georgia. It involved shoving his oldest boy against the wall, shouting interrogating words in German, and a loving family trying to get their dad back. When he came back to his mind, he left for three days. He loved his family much.
There were no other tales told of my Uncle John beyond here is a man who helped raise ten kids, loved his wife, worked really hard, loved to fish, loved to hunt, and loved his extended family as his own. He and his brother-in-law helped create a legacy of sorts. Because of their honored service to their country in extremely difficult times, many of the children of the extended family proved themselves also in military service; even in times when the military effort was disliked. I, too, served.
A movie came out about saving a private which lead to a mini-series about a parachute infantry regiment. My Uncle John was one of those that shouted Currahee! He was one of the fortunate few that returned home. Having watched the mini-series several times and knowing what I know of war from books, film, interviews, and marginal experience, I gained a better measure of the man who sat upon his couch surrounded by loved ones talking about a turkey shoot trophy. I never heard him make a big deal of his time in Europe. I heard him make a big deal about his family and living life. His sons and daughters spoke more of their father’s time in Europe than he did. He was one of the fortunate few that returned to live life among people, to face the challenges of normalcy, to hope to never send their sons and daughters to go do what he did.
My Uncle John spent the remainder of his days a father, a grandfather, and a great grandfather. He had the misfortune to bury his wife at younger age than should have been. A man of goodly physical strength waned to old age and disease. He was laid to rest, a hero; not of war but of life. War shaped his passion for living. Life tasted all the more sweeter. Those things taken as common and unappreciated became of high value, because of whom and what he left behind in Europe during the 1940s.
My Uncle John rests with his wife now. He lived a full life; fuller than most, perhaps less than others. He gave of himself willingly for God and country and for a people he did not know. He returned and worked and lived. No one knew the horrors he saw except for a few, a band of brothers. Greatness is not always born out of doing well in great events. Most of the time it is born out of doing the most commonplace things to the best of your ability over the balance of your life and hoping it was enough to impact another’s life.
My Uncle John’s legacy continues on through his children, me, my writing, and through the living that hear the retelling of his life.

In loving memory:
John Lee Eubanks
December 23, 1920 to April 27, 1997
506e PIR, 101st Infantry Division, USA
“Easy Company”

http://www.506infantry.org/

John Eubanks_WWII 506PIREasyco01

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