With today being Veterans Day, I thought I’d share a column written by one of the residents who live in my hometown of Oak Ridge, Tenn.
It’s about her father, who served in World War II, and it’s a great read, as you’ll soon see.
Happy Veterans Day, Dad
By Jane Miller
On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans who have served in the past and those men and women who continue to serve our country so bravely and who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free.
He was a good son, student, and a good athlete. He played basketball and baseball. Jack was the oldest son of four children. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in June 1943 when he was 18 years old. This special soldier is my father.
My Dad and Mother (Marie) married in May 1943. She was only 16. They met at McClure Virginia High School where they were both stars on the basketball teams. (My Mom still has a good “hook shot” to this day.) My Mom and her sisters could only date if their “Grandpa” went along, but they didn’t mind because Grandpa was lots of fun.
As a child, I remember looking at my Dad’s picture in his army uniform and wondering what the war was like. Now, many years later when I look at that same picture, I am amazed at how young he was. Eighteen is way too young for war.
Before my father was shipped overseas, he was inducted at Camp Lee, Virginia, served in San Antonio, New Orleans and Sanibel Island, Florida. My Mom followed him working in grocery stores to make ends meet.
Finally, before my Dad was shipped out to Europe, my Mom met him in New York City. Can you just imagine this now 17 year old from the hills of Appalachia arriving at Grand Central Station in New York City? I’m sure Mom’s eyes were quite large!
My Dad got Mom a room at a boarding house owned by an Army friend’s mother. Each night he would swap cigarettes. Rations, or whatever he had for passes so he could hustle off his ship to the boarding house and stay the night with his bride, never knowing if this night would be their last or if he would ever be coming back.
While on the way to the Battle of the Bulge, his ship was sunk and was rescued by another American ship. My father told me about how scary it was that cold winter night, looking down at the icy water– young boys, like him, jumping from one ship to the other. They did not have time to rescue anyone who did not make the jump as they were under attack.
My father served in the Rhineland and Central Europe Campaigns under General Patton. He received the American Theater Ribbon, EAME (European, African, Middle Eastern) Theater Ribbon with two bronze stars, Good Conduct Metal, and Victory Medal WWII. Thousands of American soldiers were killed or wounded during these two campaigns as Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton battled the Nazi’s in the worst possible conditions. I am extremely proud of my Dad for his service and bravery.
After my Dad shipped out, my Mom returned to Kingsport, Tenn., where my Dad’s parents now lived. She worked for Tennessee Eastman and shared an apartment with a relative whose husband was also in the service. She went to work at Eastman, weighing only 98 pounds. In a family of nine children, she had never had quite enough to eat.
Things were different at Eastman. To keep the much-needed workforce working, they fed them a big breakfast, lunch, desserts, and Mom ate like never before. She bought a little house in Kingsport with my Dad’s allotment and found renters for it. Quite independent for a woman in the 1940’s, especially one so young.
After the war was over, my Dad continued to serve in Germany and ran a train station, sharing a big house with some of his Army buddies. He was assigned to manage the train station because of his strong typing skills learned back at McClure High School.
When 21-year-old Sgt. Jack Miller received his honorable discharge in 1946, he made his way to Kingsport, Tennessee. He found a “grownup” 19-year-old wife in their new house, freshly painted and furnished.
They did not call my Dad’s parents for a couple of days even though they lived only a couple of miles away. After 18 months apart, I guess they needed time to get acquainted. By the way, their 37-year marriage was one of the best I have ever observed, and I was quite close to both parents.
I am so fortunate to have parents of the greatest generation. They taught me values, work ethic, and took me to church. My Dad shared with me that he promised God if he would protect him during the war, that he would live for Him the rest of his life. My Dad followed through with that promise.
My Dad was quiet, low key but also very funny and never stopped using some of the Army “lingo”. He would always ask me to bring him a “cup of Joe” (coffee). When he woke me in the mornings, he would say time to “hit the deck.” He taught me how to make up a bed with “Army corners,” which I do to this day.
My Dad fought for the United States of America. He gave his all, willingly risked his life for this country. I honor my father on Veterans Day. I thank him for working to keep this country safe. Without men and women like him, we would have no country. We would not have freedom of any sort.
My father was proud to work at Y-12 from 1954 until his untimely death in 1980. Dad knew that Y-12 had a major part in ending WWII and saving thousands of American and Japanese lives. My Dad (where he was known as J.J.) was eager to go to work at Y-12 each day because he believed in the mission of national security.
When I began my employment at Y-12 in 1991, several of my Dad’s former co-workers sought me out and were so kind to talk with me about him (more of the greatest generation). Y-12 employees today still have that same commitment to the mission of national security and to supporting our veterans.
If you know a veteran or someone who is serving now, or know a family who has someone serving or deployed, give them a call and say “Thank You” and tell them how much you appreciate their service to our country. May God bless all our veterans and may God bless America!
Happy Veterans Day, Dad!
It has been 32 years since you passed away and days like this are extra somber. Still, I think of you every day. Do I measure up to the strength and character that you had? I can only hope so and I hope you are proud of me. I miss you, I love you, and I thank you for serving to keep our country free.
(Editor’s Note: Jane Miller serves as Mayor Pro Tem, for the City of Oak Ridge and B&W Y-12 Public Relations Specialist.)
If you’re like me, there’s probably a lot of her Dad’s story that you can relate to. And reading this story should remind us all that you should never pass up the chance to talk to some of these great people who are still among us. Their time among us is waning, but their wisdom and courage is everlasting.
Thank a veteran today, even if it’s just a simple text or e-mail. But if you can spare a few minutes, go sit with one and talk a bit. I bet you’ll appreciate your next hot meal and soft bed all the more, and you’ll probably look at the “problems” you’re facing in your life and think, “Boy, I don’t have it as bad as I thought.”
Stan R. Mitchell
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
P.S. Please accept the greatest gift I can give.
P.P.S. Thanks to all who continue to make my novels a success. I seriously couldn’t have done it with everyone’s support. I’m excited to say that Little Man, and the Dixon County War has gone as high as No. 16 on the Amazon UK Paid List (see here and here). My second novel, Sold Out, has also done well, also, going as high as No. 81 on the Amazon Paid List for the category of War (see here and here). Learn more about both books here.