Don’t cry, girls

March 29, 2015

It’s Sunday, a good time to find something good to read. The best reads generally are pieces in which you can place yourself in the story in some way. Then you put your imagination to work on the role or roles you might play, and the interest and meaning multiplies. Sometimes, you can feel emotion emerge.
Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed the book “Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,” because I could sense the emotion and I could envision family members who personally experienced the war. I haven’t seen the movie, but this book held my attention more than most.
Since I wasn’t part of the military, books about being a soldier generally aren’t my first choice. This story captured me, allowing me to feel what the uncles I never met may have experienced. I appreciate the effort it took author Laura Hillenbrand to do the research and interviews, then piece this work together.
At every turn, I could see myself or some other family member somewhere in the story. A young boy grows up with more than his share of playfulness. Athletics play an important role in his development. He’s thrust into an unplanned role, part of an armed conflict that turns his world upside down.
During breaks in the military action, boys play. Then they are shot down. Many, like my uncles, don’t survive. For others, like Louie Zamperini, survival becomes the sole focus. The details unfold of floating across the ocean for weeks, seeing one buddy die along the way, and finally seeing land only to find you’re in enemy territory. Then the unthinkable experiences as a prisoner.
There’s elation as the war ends, but there’s more. Finally, the curves in the road to recovery, to finding a new normal in the world back home.
I know why this World War II book held my attention more than other accounts. I’d been thinking perhaps more than in the past about my mother’s two brothers killed in action. Through the account of Zamperini’s life in “Unbroken,” I pictured these two uncles as part of a crew of airmen as were described in the book. I thought about the way they acted before, during, and after flights filled with action, survival, and death. I related to their thoughts, and left with a better appreciation of what they were like, and what they experienced.
Sometimes, I wonder how life would have been different had these uncles been around. You can drive yourself crazy with “what ifs,” but you also see things in different ways when you place yourself in their shoes, with help of a good writer.
Some things are facts that have to be in the story, such as my mom and her sister taking their brother Noble to the bus station in Effingham for his deployment that was the beginning of his World War II action. They all knew that his job in the back of bomber meant there was a likelihood he wouldn’t return with a heartbeat. His parting message that day to his sisters: “Don’t cry, girls.”

Tags: Carl Walworth,

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