my attempt at blending the arts I cherish

in memoriam

she pulled the coat a little tighter around her on that cold March day, as Tennessee held onto winter as long as possible. occupying the passenger seat, her eyes scanned out the windows taking in unfamiliar territory as mother drove them across several counties. her nerves gradually, quietly began to rattle as the car neared their destination; she’d never interviewed anyone, especially not a ninety year-old man or for thirty percent of her college US History grade. when she had found he fit the category of the project, she was outwardly happy and inwardly anxious. moons before, in 1941, as a gangly 18 year-old, he shipped off into the Pacific arena to fight a war, and he was her step-great-grandfather.

the little family hurried inside out of the cold, only to be welcomed by dimly lit corridors and faded olive-colored walls as unpleasant smells drifted above their heads. she frowned to think he spent his days confined here, cut off from the other world she lived in. she raced through the questions she’d prepared in her head, but what if she didn’t have enough background information to know what he’s talking about or what if she couldn’t even hear him well enough or what, what if she didn’t honor his story the way it ought to have been?

she set up the recorder, kept fingering through her notes, and then it just began. as simple as that. though fragmented at the beginning, an old world was forming before her as she envisioned a mere boy landing with his division on Guadalcanal with an ancient WWI weapon in hand mustering the courage to do the unthinkable. from gentle Tennessee to the sultry Solomon Islands, it was a little more of “seeing the world” than he had imagined. he talked of the lengthy, stormy journey out over the Pacific, he talked of the foul conditions of bug-infested island, he talked of the incompetent commander, but mostly he talked of the fighting.

she tried to keep a straight face as the recounting became more and more detailed: boys throwing up after their first mortal shot found an opposing human body, clothes that began to mold and rot, bug bites that swelled and festered, soldiers sharing foxholes with lonely, large lizards, not talking amongst themselves about their fallen friends, and that one night when he watched a fellow down on his left kill 200 men with one machine gun.

the interview ended with him reminding her how terrible war is and that heroism is merely doing what you must when the moment presents itself. but all the next week she couldn’t shake the story she’d heard and the places he’d taken her in one unsuspecting hour. as she clicked through black and whites of soldiers stationed at Guadalcanal, she secretly wondered if he was one of the faces in the pictured crowd, for not only had he gone and fought honorably, but he had survived. all her life, he had simply been her great-grandfather that worked out in his yard, sporting his faded striped shirt and large, floppy hat. but now, now he was, in fact, a hero.

I celebrate George Boykin and his bravery, his honor, and his willingness to defend his country in World War II. Thank you, Papa George, for your courageous heart and your story that shall not be forgotten or overlooked.


4 comments on “in memoriam

  1. livepipes
    July 5, 2012

    Reblogged this on LIVEPIPES.

  2. kersee71
    July 9, 2012

    Reblogged this on Kersee71's Blog.

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