Tuesday, November 10, 2015

ARCHIVE: Lest We Forget

Posted by: Cindy Spencer Pape

http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/f4/51/d8/f451d8c31fbe9cf979d0ecb8559a7304.jpgWhen I was a little girl, my next-door-neighbor always passed out red paper poppies around this time of year. I didn't understand why, of course, but my mother would give him some money and we'd both proudly sport our floral decorations on our coats for a week or so. As I got older, my mother explained that it was a sign of support for all the men and women who'd served our country. The subdivision where we lived had only been open to GI bill loans, so almost all of the original residents were World War II veterans, including my favorite neighbor and my dad.

So why, I asked, didn't my father sell poppies? He'd been in the war too. I'd seen pictures of him in uniform. (Yes, if anyone wants to know, I was a late in life baby for my dad, LOL.) Well, the story is a bit convoluted and it took a few years before I actually understood it.

In the 1920s, folks flooded to the Detroit area to work on Mr. Ford's new assembly line, or for competitors like General Motors and Chrysler. My grandfather, from a small fishing village in Newfoundland, had been one of those, and my father, fourth of eight children, was the second born in Michigan, so technically a US citizen. When he was eight, they returned to Newfoundland.

In 1941, when war broke out, my father's two older brothers went to St. Johns and joined the King's service (Newfoundland at the time still belonged to England, not Canada.) My Uncle Bill ended up in the Canadian Air Force, having been born in Toronto--a stop on the family travels before Detroit. My Uncle Jack, another Michigan native, chose the British Navy. When my father turned 18 in 1942, he went to town and discovered something interesting--the American army paid $5 a week MORE than any of the others. Since he was American by birth, he qualified. They signed him up and sent him Stateside for training. My grandmother sent three sons to WWII, in three different branches of the service and for 3 different Allied countries.

The thing with the US at that time was that it required an act of Congress to send a man overseas a second time. Why do that for some uneducated private? Amd Newfoundland, belonging to England counted as overseas. So my dad was assigned to Fredricksburg Viriginia to test munitions and explosives. He helped devise a way to clear land mines from the path of a tank. Playing with gallons of nitroglycerin every day, he was certainly at risk. But since he'd never been actually in combat, he was denied entrance to the VFW. I'm not arguing the right or wrong of that--I just understood why he didn't sell paper flowers.

All that mattered to my grandmother was that all three of her boys came home, just as their father and uncles had done in WWI. None of my dad's generation of brothers stayed in Newfoundland, where there wasn't any work. Bill went to Toronto and Dad and Jack to Detroit, where they married and both still live, at 90 & 91. The younger two did their time during Korea. An uncle on the other side was career Army, even working as a civilian employee after his 30 years were done. My brother was in the US Navy Reserve for 20 years, and my husband did a brief stint in the Army until his bad knees ended that notion. I've lived my entire life around men who served their country and then went on with their lives, and I can think of nothing I find more inspiring. Maybe that's why I'm fond of writing about warriors or ex-warriors in fantasy, future or contemporary settings.

The most recent of my many fictional military men is Sig Nowicki in Thankful for You: out now from Decadent Publishing. Check it out here.

Happy Veteran's Day, Rememberance Day or Armistice Day. Please remember to honor our troops and veterans, however they served!


  1. What a cool family story. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wonderful post, Cindy, really enjoyed reading about your family's experiences.


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