Chicken Scratchin’s: Veterans Day – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Chicken Scratchin’s: Veterans Day

Boot Camp, Fort Lewis, Wash., ca. 1945. Photo by Fort Lewis Sentinel.




Thank you to everyone who has served my country and fought for my freedom.

Veterans Day was a day I tried to spend with my dad. He was barely 18 in 1945 when he and his twin brother left Kansas to answer the call of duty. They were farm kids, most comfortable on the back of a workhorse, then all of a sudden they were driving Army ambulances in California. After some fancy talking, the brothers were assigned to a hospital ship and set sail across the Pacific to bring medical aid to fallen soldiers.

Dad didn’t like to talk about the war. He said he never wanted his kids to go to war. To see the things he saw. To smell the smell of burning flesh. He wanted to protect us and thought that his enlistment was enough for all of us.

But sometimes on Veterans Day, Dad would tell us stories. Sometimes he would reminisce about the men he served with and where they had ventured. Sometimes it was about relatives and how and where they served. Mostly it was the humorous side that we shared with him, as he always tried to pass on the good times.

110913-LaVerneLeRoyI can only imagine the trouble my uncle and dad caused on the hospital ship. They were identical twins and if you didn’t know them you probably couldn’t tell them apart. They were the kings of practical jokes.

One story that still makes me laugh was about the two of them getting caught on the officer’s deck flirting with the nurses. When asked by an officer why he was on this deck and couldn’t he read that sign that said “Officers Only”, my dad replied, “Nope, I can’t read. My brother does the reading, I just do the arithmetic.”

I would drag out my photos of them on the ship and he would tell me the names of the shipmates. One time I looked up his military service records and found which medals he received. He was amazed that I could find this information so quickly. I strive to save the family history and pass it on to the younger generation, so one year at Christmas I divided up Dad’s medals, buttons and foreign currency for each of my brothers and sisters to share with their families.

Our last Veterans Day together was just a couple of years ago. I went home to take him to the parade. I brought his good conduct medal with me as this was always one of my favorites, wondering how those two Kansas boys ever earned these medals. I pinned it to his chest and we headed to the American Legion to line up. He rode in trolley down Main Street while others still strong walked the route. The flags of freedom were flying.

I was so proud of my hometown for taking the time to thank these men and women on Veterans Day. Proud of my country because I know what freedom is. But mostly I was proud of my dad and what he made out of me.

williams_jan_1Jan Williams is a farm girl, but was raised in a town. She has finally gotten back to where she thinks she belongs – in the country. She occasionally shares some of her rural experiences with a side of Chicken Scratchin’s. She lives in Osage County, Kansas, with a husband, a dog, two cats and five chickens.

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