Post War Chapter – “Thoughts Upon Discharge”

This is what I imagine that my father would write about his feelings as he was discharged from the Army Air Force and released to resume life as a “free” man; he was no longer under the control of the German guards but he was experiencing difficulty in controlling the troubling thoughts of his previous internment. It was as if his mind was still captive, but he would work on trying to be himself – the Johnnie that his family would look forward to welcoming home…………….

It was the end of November, 1945, when I came home after being honorably discharged from the US Army Air Force in Rome, New York, and it was a cold day at that but I didn’t notice it. Just the thought that I was free and soon to be reunited with my family in the warmth and comfort of my home made me oblivious to the weather. It was a beautiful day to me. It had been so long that I was a little frightened because I knew that I was a different person and I didn’t know how I was going to feel or react when returned to a family setting. I would try to appear to be the old boy that my family knew, unscathed from what I had experienced, but I knew, indeed, that I wasn’t and I never would be. In time, though, I was certain that I could put it away and give a normal appearance. Time would heal so they say; it would have to.

It was an effort to try to remember what normal was, but there was nothing normal about me anymore. I was no longer a boy but a man and I had experienced and witnessed many life-changing events that could never be adequately put into words.

I wanted someone to understand what I had endured for 15 months and I shared my recollections of everything I felt that I could think of that I needed to get off of my mind with my sister, Helen, my first evening home. It was as though telling it all would somehow serve to rid me of it. I wanted to put it behind me but not until I vented some of my most frightening and painful experiences to someone that I knew cared. I realized that no one could understand unless they were there, so it would have to be put away and that is what I did for the most part in the remaining years of my life. The memories and uncontrollable effects of a critical time in my life stayed with me throughout, but would remain deeply tucked away into my being.