This week drew a contrast between life in America, both equally inspiring, yet diverse in presentation. After a thrilling and most satisfying trip to New York City, filled with the bustle of life, drama and sensory elation...I found myself making the drive to Fairfield, Illinois, my home town, returning to my roots and humble beginnings.
My uncle Ralph, another of the great generation, passed away while I was in New York. I was able to make the drive early the morning after my return to his funeral. Proceeded by my father and three uncles in death, Ralph was part of a generation of Americans who left the farms of Southern Illinois and helped to defeat it's generations evils on the battlefields of Europe and Asia and returned home to build the America that increasingly we tend to forget.
As I grew up I always thought of my uncle Ralph as a scary man. Married to one of my father's sisters, Aunt Toots, he was dark and mysterious. It wasn't until his declining years that he finally opened up to me and allowed me to see his soul's scars, the kind that only horrific battle can produce, which opened my eyes to why this man was who he was in 2010.
Ralph, of all my family who served in WWII, was the least vocal of his time in service, yet was the most decorated and battle hardened veteran of the bunch. You see, Ralph was an Army Ranger, the elite special forces of the day, who immediately enlisted the Monday after Pearl Harbor, and found himself in every major landing and battle from North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Europe from 1942 to 1945. My uncle Ralph saw, and made, killing an everyday occurrence. On June 6, 1944, Ralph was one of the 225