My father has written a letter to his family, including now grandchildren and great-grandchildren, every week since he retired about 20 years ago. My mother assists as well. As we approached this most recent Veteran’s Day, we all received a letter that included a picture of him on a mountain-side in Europe taken after the end of Wold War II, while he was on leave, but still part of the occupying forces. His comment was short, as has been all his comments about World War II. He simply expressed thanks for freedom and for those willing to pay the price to maintain it.
I spent quite some time looking at that photo, intrigued by my father’s eyes. He had started his military action as part of the landing forces at Normandy on D-Day. He served under General Patton through the Battle of the Bulge. He assisted in liberating concentration camps in Austria and Germany.
My understanding is that my father was one of 9, of his original basic training unit that came home. I say “my understanding”, because my father never really talks about it. Knowing what little I know from the history of where he was, I can understand it. I wouldn’t want to talk about it either. But as I looked at his eyes, I could see pain mixed with hope. His hope turned into a wonderful life.
But it left me with the same questions I’ve always been curious about. The pain and the suffering that was also in his eyes. What happened?
Today I was reading my AARP Bulletin and I read an article about the Legacy Project (www.warletters.com), a national, all-volunteer initiative that encourages Americans to seek out and preserve the personal correspondence of our nation’s veterans, active-duty troops, and their loved ones. The idea is that no one can tell the stories of these men and women better than they can, and that their sacrifices, humanity, and experiences are best recorded in their own words—the letters and e-mails they have written in times of war.
I would love to be able to read letters my father wrote, just like I read his weekly letters now, but what few he might have written, no longer exist. That is what makes the Legacy Project so awesome. I was able to read letters of others in the same battles and situations as my father and it gave me a better appreciation of what my father doesn’t talk about.
If you have any letters or communications from any war, I ask that you upload and share them. If you want a true, first hand account of what was happening during any war, check out these letters. This site is an historian’s, a lover’s, a psychologist’s, a writer’s, a researcher’s, and any one else’s dream come true as a source of first hand, personal experience. Check it out!