Our Forgotten Veterans

Robert Flournoy


Copyright 2017 by Robert Flournoy  

Poster with a WWII era housewife.

On Memorial Day, and Veteran's Day, I try to visit the Confederate cemetery here in Franklin, TN, to pay respect to the forgotten veterans of our country's most costly war.

Farm boys who may or may not have owned a mule to plow their 40 acres, and answered their country's call just as valiantly as did the boys from Ohio and New York who also paid the ultimate price on the hallowed ground of the Franklin battlefield where 9,000 men were killed or wounded in what has been described as the Civil War's deadliest 5 hours.

Where did such courage come from? These forgotten veterans deserve a moment of respectful silence, as do the women who loved them, left at home to keep their children safe, and fed.  

The women of a more modern era deserve the same respect, and I try to tell their story here through the eyes of my own family.  They were the mothers of my childhood friends, they were the wives of my father's friends, and the wives of my own friends. A timeless dance, they too are forgotten veterans.

My older sister was born in August of 1942, just before my father was accepted as a flight cadet in the Royal Air Force program for aspiring American flyers, since the United States was ill prepared for such a thing when war broke out. He would spend the next year learning his craft on several bases across our land to include San Antonio, TX, Wichita, TX, Enid, OK, and Great Falls. MT. My mom would wait patiently, raising her infant daughter in the home of his parents.

Graduation from flight school would see dad off to India where he would fly "The Hump" in his C-46 until the war's end, but would not make it home until February of 1946.

Mom was still waiting, her daughter having turned almost 4 years old until her daddy, and my mother's husband, would finally come home.  

Dad attended Auburn after that on the GI Bill, getting his degree in Electrical Engineering in 1949. He went to work for the TVA in Chattanooga, TN, and joined the Tennessee National Guard as a pilot to generate some extra income for his family which now included me, having arrived in this world 9 months to the day after my dad's home coming from WW2. Imagine that.

What was unimaginable at the time was that his guard unit would be activated for duty in Korea.

After another 6 months gone from home for predeployment training, he left for Korea in late 1950 and returned in the Fall of 1952, my mother once again left behind to raise her son and daughter.

Dad decided to stay in the military at this point, having 6 years toward a 20 year retirement under his belt, and we were to move a dozen times between then and his retirement in 1967, he leaving us behind several more times in between as he attended various military schools and a time in Germany alone before we could join him in 1959.

My mom had become an army wife, having unwittingly drifted into a life style that a small town Alabama girl could never have imagined when she first met dad in 1941. One of millions, she fought 3 wars with her husband, staying at home alone, moving at the most inconvenient times, and sacrificing the home town comforts enjoyed by most women whose husbands were civilians.

Here is to mom on Veteran's Day. Here is to all the military moms who answered the call every bit as courageously as their husbands did.

Sometimes I wonder who was the bravest, and who had the hardest job. As a parent now, who understands the demands of motherhood without the additional heavy weight of a military life on their shoulders, I think I know the answer to that.

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