Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Unknown Soldiers by Joseph E. Garland
Reliving World War II in Europe
Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon,
Headquarter's Company of the U.S. Army 45th Division's 157 Infantry Regiment.
Protean Press, Rockport MA. 2009
A couple of weeks after my solo celebration of Victory in Europe in the officers' parking lot above the Bay of Naples my shin was so well healed that to retain my limited service status my guardians at the hospital redefined my incapacity as psychoneurosis, I suppose on account of the baffling crippling of my legs. "I'm not terribly violent yet", I reported home. "Give me another six months, and I'll froth at the mouth for you!"
Of course the amusing psycho news brought a chin-up response from Ma.
Whatever is keeping you from feeling whole again, I'm sure we can set you right somehow, and soon. One by one the awful, terrifying possibilities are being eliminated, and you can see the way opening up, I'm sure, to return to an opportunity to make and shape your life again.
My father being on a fishing trip in Maine, his always protective wife added that she wouldn't show my letter to him until I sent a clarification, which I hastily and rather sheepishly attempted:
There has been an alarming amount of hogwash in the States about psychoneurosis, but the fact is that it runs the gamut all the way from near-insanity to mere nervousness. The latter is about my case. I'm only rather nervous, restlessly so, I mean. It's absolutely nothing to be alarmed about, for I've been that way ever since the first days on Anzio. It manifest itself by extreme restlessness, the inability to stay still, fairly heavy smoking, shortness of temper (frequent "blowing your top", just a way of getting off excess steam). Just about everybody who comes out of the infantry alive is that way, varying only in degree, and it will obviously wear off to a great extent in civilian life and through a process of adjustment. That ease your mind? I'm perfectly frank and holding nothing back. I'm just war-weary, that's all.
Little did I or anybody else know. So she showed Pa my letter and wrote back wondering that anyone who saw combat could think of anything else, "but of course the human mind and body can get over those things, especially young ones."
Meanwhile her reflective husband counseled their "rather nervous" son:
You have done your duty as a citizen-soldier, and when that duty is discharged your real life begins. This is trite and comes poorly from a parent, but while you are waiting don't let your time be too much wasted... After a year in civilian life you will look back on your army life as a strange interlude, but one in which much of your positive character will have been built.
We will not again inhabit the world or see the social systems reappear that flourished before the world upheaval of the first half of the twentieth century... There's going to be considerable equalization, and the wise people will adjust themselves to a world where the wealth is much more equally distributed than now...I can imagine no worse basis for a lasting friendship with Russia than the oft repeated predictions that we'll be at war with her inside of fifteen years. We, with our bank accounts, are just so afraid of the Russian influence and the possibility that we might have to share prosperity with the working classes that we can't bear it.