Relocating to different cities as a Military Dependent made me appreciate America and years later join The American Legion. After leaving Fort Riley, Kan., in 1939 as a 5-year-old, my dad was assigned to the Pentagon. I had the seed of patriotism already instilled in me. Every evening the 24-note Taps was sounded. Civilians in cars would stop, get out and place their hand over their heart. If you were a soldier walking you stopped and gave a hand salute, and if you were a 4- or 5-year-old like me, you dropped your toy and stood at attention. Shortly after arriving in Washington, D.C., we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. I would not see my father for the next few years - not until I was 9 years old, after the war was over. During those years in Washington the landlord in our rental house saw an opportunity to make a big profit, so my mom and two brothers were evicted while my dad was somewhere in the South Pacific. We rented a house in Chevy Chase, Md. Across the street from our house was a woods. Soon, about 800 yards away, wire was strung, anti-aircraft guns were installed and search lights crisscrossed the sky at night. A curfew was imposed and curtains had to be placed over windows. Wardens on the street would enforce the curfew. Rationing began: no candy, gas for cars and just about everything else; we supported the fighting troops abroad.
Fast forward: When I was 14 years old I had traveled by WWII troop ship across the Atlantic Ocean to a defeated Europe beginning in 1949 as a teenager of a military family. The German city I attended high school in had been bombed 7 times, the last time in March 1944 by over 700 British bombers at night. Americans bombed by daylight. Bombed-out buildings were still evident and live unexplored bombs were still being defused, sometimes with fatalities. There was no local drug store or TV (at that time), only one radio station that played opera music at 4 pm. On May 1 we did not go to school, as communists marched that day. Graffiti was painted on many buildings, “Americans Go Home.” I played baseball on the German field that is shown in news today of the Nazi swastika being blown apart with my fellow classmates, white, black, from many states and Puerto Rico and Texans of Mexican descent. We were one team in high school. As I reflected years later, I think the Pentagon sent the most experienced combat officers from WWII to confront the Russians, who had several thousand tanks just a few hours away across the border. At the height of the Cold War in the early '50s. my dad was a high-ranking artillery officer combat experienced from WWII, and the Russians knew but not the general public that we had stationed nuclear artillery a few miles back from the border, otherwise I believe Russia would have broken through our front line of defense and we all would be expendable.
Having served twice myself, I was disappointed in the lack of patriotism in our country, but as an individual there was nothing I could do. But by joining The American Legion I joined millions more who love this country and would lay down their life for it.