Remembering WW II, for Veterans Day

I have the photographs. Arnold, my father, standing six-foot-six, and rail thin, in front of a tent in Mindanao, during World War II.

The writing on the back just says, "This tent has been my home for the last three months."

Other pictures include his Army buddies, standing in front of similar tents, in front of clotheslines, but without names. I’ll never know who they were, where they came from, or what happened to them.

There are some other pictures too, which my father was reluctant to explain.

Why is it that so many veterans don’t want to talk about their wars, or their service? Or, what they did?

That’s probably a question that many would answer with, "Nothing was pleasant, I prefer to forget it."

And that’s just what my father often said.

I remember asking him about the war. And only once did he give me any information. He didn’t want to talk about it.

But I was reminded of it recently while going through a box of stuff that I’ve saved for years.

There were his medals, uniform buttons, and a stack of Japanese pesos. Even a Chinese yen from the early 40s, along with leftover ration stamps for my mother and myself for the war years.

I have no idea where his uniforms and hat went. They were in the attic in the home where I grew up, but that’s not my attic any more and I don’t know where they went.

Frankly, I remember very little about those war years because I was very little.

But I’ve always treasured those buttons and pesos and stamps in the box.

And the photographs.

Yes, the photos of my father. And one small photo of me, a color photo, inside a small folder with a military insignia stamped on its leather cover. My mother told me that Dad carried it with him all the while he was gone.

And, three other photos. A man. A woman. And a couple, old enough and similar enough in appearance, to be the man’s parents. The man was wearing his military uniform. The woman? His wife? Girlfriend?

The people in the photos are Japanese. There is Japanese writing on the backs of all of the pictures.

Where did these pictures come from? What is their significance?

That one time that my father talked to me about the service, about war, about the things in the box, he told me that he took the photos from the body of the Japanese soldier, the man in the picture.

And that he had killed the soldier.

"It was the worst day of my life," my father said, "the worst thing I’ve ever done."

Then, he was silent.

Neither of us mentioned it again.

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