Sunday, November 11, 2018

Paul Phillips

RIP Paul Philips ... 1923 -1944

My mother's "little brother" (Paul) was killed in Italy, during WWII.  He was an infantryman, he was in a unit that had landed in Italy and was working their way inland.  He was walking through a farmyard when a sniper's bullet cut his young life short.

I'm short of details.  I once asked my mother about "Uncle Paul" (who died years before I was born) and she teared up, could not talk.  This was 50 years after his death.  Paul was her  "Little Brother", and she never got over her loss.  I had to ask other relatives to learn even this much.

I had asked her about Uncle Paul a couple of years after I got back from Viet Nam.    And it wasn't until that moment that I realized how difficult it was for her to say goodbye to me, the day I shipped out to Viet Nam (on an airplane, an overnight trip ... not the weeks long ship voyage that Uncle Paul must have endured).   She couldn't even talk about him; she grieved for him all over again.

I understand now that she suffered more fear for me than I did for myself.   But she wrote me warm letters about the family and little incidents while I was gone.  And I tried to write back a couple of times a month, but it was not always possible; rain, pencil, wet paper ... I always had an excuse.

She saved my letters, and years later she gave them to me, wrapped in a red ribbon.  I was surprised about how few there were ...  the stack was only an inch thick, and this represented a year's correspondence to my parents?   It was inexcusable, if I had understood A Mother's Fears.  I can only imagine her concern for my safety.

I began to understand when my son ... "The Squid Kid" ... joined the Navy as a career.

Good news: he's in the Navy.  What "Bad Things" could happen to him?

Bad news: he chose "Master at Arms" as his MOS.

This isn't like "Shore Patrol" when they just go after drunken sailors who don't report on time after shore leave; this is like a Navy Cop, who deal with crimes and criminals in the Navy.

But he is strong, intelligent, well trained.  Much of the time he is based on Whidbey Island Navel Air Station in the Puget Sound where his family lives; most nights he gets to go home to his wife and his many children ... when he's not TDS deployed (for a year at a time) in some place I don't know how to spell.

He never writes, he rarely calls .. but when he does phone me, we talk for hours about things that don't really matter.    It just matters that we can talk to each other; I think he does it because he knows I worry about him, although I try not to show it.

He's a lot better about keeping in touch than I was.

I've become "My Mother"; worrying about my beloved soldier/sailor/airman, grateful when I hear he's still okay.

I don't want to become "My Mother", fearing the loss / weeping for decades over the loss of my beloved family member.   And I'm determined not to take counsel of my fears.

On this Veterans Day (previously "Armistice Day", celebrating the end of WWI),  I'm thinking of The Squid Kid, and his family (and many of my grandchildren), and how proud I am of my son who made it his life work to defend his country.

And I know I won't be like my mother, spending the better part of her life mourning for the beloved relative she lost during "The War To End Wars To End Wars".

So ... Ben, remember this: it's a sin for a child to die before his parents.  Be careful out there.

No comments: